by Jerry ElengicalOct 05, 2021
As the pandemic transformed lives and forced the world to retreat indoors, the notion of a home as a fortified, air-tight sanctuary solidified far beyond earlier preconceptions. While this radical paradigm shift was set into motion, Melbourne-based office, Clinton Murray Architects, was enlisted to design a home for a couple in the suburban locality of Hawthorn, in Victoria, Australia. The clients desired a relatively concise architectural statement for this residence to contrast the formality of their previous home - which had to accommodate their two sons and three feline companions. Hoping for an abode that would be more spatially conservative than their earlier lodgings, the clients settled upon a narrow, triangular plot of land adjoining a park, in close proximity to the thoroughfare of Glenferrie Road.
“Our clients Daniel and Sandra were very open about us creating an entirely new way of living for them,” shares the project team in an official statement, adding, “they challenged us to design a remarkable home on this difficult, small triangular site that allowed them to live in the treetops.” In fact, the site’s trilateral footprint was the most noteworthy obstacle faced throughout the design process, which honed in on the client’s eye for detail, while inverting conventional archetypes of vertical zoning in residential design. Recessing the spaces on the ground floor to offer greater seclusion for the bedrooms and other private zones, the team at Clinton Murray Architects designed the upper floor of the home - dubbed ‘Levo’s House’ - to be fully open and permeable to the eyes of passers-by.
Crowned by a diagonal fly roof that seemingly hovers above the angular volumes of the residence’s upper floor, the pavilion-like façade design is dynamic and transparent, with large glazed openings that grant neighbours a peek into the lives of the home’s inhabitants. “The ground floor offers privacy, seclusion and retreat, referencing the client’s brief, while the first floor living areas offer a window into their lives,” share the architects. “The design 'moment' for us was taking the planning control stipulating a 'pitched roof' and adapting the triangular geometry of the site into a folded fly roof that reads as lightly as possible.” They add, “We worked closely with an extraordinarily creative engineer from Canberra, Ken Murtagh, to create a roof that mystifies!” The irregular forms exhibit an asymmetrical harmony, with alternating surfaces dressed either in Holcim Agilia concrete or Accoya timber cladding.
Forgoing a conventional basement parking garage, the architects made a strong case for an open carport surmounted by a roof terrace to solve the issue posed by off-street parking requirements. This decision resulted in the addition of a sweeping concrete canopy that floats over the array of pickets constituting the fencing along the site boundary. The angled entryway opens into a transition area bordered by the staircase, with a textured wood-finished wall that captures the eye on stepping into the premises. Towards both the northern and southern extremities of the site are the residence’s two bedrooms. Hand troweled concrete screed has been utilised for the flooring throughout most of the internal spaces, interjected by bursts of wood textures.
Occupying the core of the internal layout, the main staircase leads into a dining and kitchen area towards the plot’s eastern end. Surfaces clad in textured wood rest beneath the skewed geometries of the roof structure, which forms triangular clerestory windows along the space’s bounding walls. The main living area lies on the other side of the staircase, facing the main road. Populated by the Knoll Bertoia Large Diamond chair and Walter Knoll Prime Time sofas, this zone’s large windows forge a dialogue between the residents and the streetscape beyond the home’s confines. Two roof terraces at the southeastern and northwestern corners of the site serve to extend this connection to the urban realm.
Muted, earthy tones of wood and concrete define the interior design scheme developed by Clinton Murray Architects, which captures the abundance of daylight filtered in through the home’s many floor-to-ceiling windows. The high thermal mass of the upper level ensures adequate levels of thermal comfort, alongside the rudimentary mechanical ventilation systems installed for heating and cooling. In essence, this arrangement ensures that the residents maintain links to the external environment, while being sheltered from the harsher elements of weather. The team at Clinton Murray Architects mentions, “The house has become the talking point of the neighbourhood. We have witnessed people stopping to chat to our clients, a pleasant contrast to the barriers other properties present to the street.”
Name: Levo’s House
Location: Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
Area: 300 sqm
Architect: Clinton Murray Architects
Year of completion: 2020
Project Team: Clinton Murray and Emily Wallace
Interior Design: Clinton Murray Architects
Landscape Design: Kihara Landscape
Builder: Jorant Pty Ltd
Engineer: Ken Murtagh