by Jerry ElengicalMar 29, 2022
The design narrative for the Colonnade House furthers an interesting paradigm on dated architectural structures, especially everyday residential architecture, wherein preservation or conservation may seem too farfetched an exercise as opposed to the case of cultural or academic institutions. In the face of rapidly evolving spatial and stylistic demands then, and a somewhat compromised structural integrity of the original, rebuilding from the ground up becomes much more economically and culturally feasible. Melbourne-based Splinter Society’s approach (and brief) for a large family home lay somewhere in the middle - while the clients wanted the essence of the original Federation-style residence to be respected, they desired the extension to the house to be entirely distinct and much more in line with the times. The agglomerated design of the house then emerged as a re-melding through contrasts, an extension from the existing - far from the romanticised 'old meets new' notion associated with such projects, but all the more better for it.
The reasons for an extension of the house with the eponymous colonnade as opposed to remodelling were primarily linked to structural, and even spatial issues with the heritage residence. According to the team at Splinter Society, the existing structure was “light-weight” in nature, and contained closed, disconnected rooms resulting in a cramped feeling for a family otherwise oriented to open living with a touch of art. In contrast to this, the extension was to be modern, robust, and well connected to its garden surroundings, and this is what came to guide the design narrative of the house. As a counter to the feeble weight of the existing residence, unadorned concrete seemed an obvious choice of material to build from. In contrast to the limited space, a linear extension comprising of visual avenues to the garden surroundings seemed imperative. Running centrally through the new extension as an arm connecting the old home to the garden, a dominant in-situ concrete colonnade was thus conceived and became the definitive identity of the project.
The house's design treats the colonnade as a functional device more than a set of successive 'windows' for arresting perspectives. While it becomes the primary support system of the linear arm-like extension - a literal gateway connecting the past and present - the alternation in the occurrence of the columns creates a dynamic solid-void system that filters and screens light between the living spaces, and the pool and garden outside. The spaces between the columns are utilised as small extensions to the floorplate, with garden-connected window daybeds and pedestals to house sculptures placed in the gaps. A simple black gable-formed roof supported atop this colonnade caps the extension. Pitched to one end, the gabled roof too emerges as a clean, modernistic reinterpretation of the federation residence's dramatic double pitches.
The contrast mentioned earlier also extends to the smaller interventions in the house's design. While the existing residence was rife with decorative motifs, the Colonnade House is deliberately restrained in its expression, sticking to a rather strict geometricity. The extension’s use of an adequately spaced colonnade lending an open, free-flowing plan, and relatively flexible spaces overcomes the traditional layout containing only closed, defined rooms. The old house's decorative timber windows find a sleeker definition, now reformed using steel. Interestingly so, while the present form of the house is composed of intrinsically 'heavy' materials - concrete replacing bricks, and steel replacing timber - the current’s visual mass is on the lighter end of the scale.
The house's private spaces remain nestled in the existing building, allowing for a certain “intimacy and romantic old-world charm” that the clients desired and were convinced that the old residence was certain to provide. A new entry, moved up in the plan to now lie somewhat in the middle of the layout, something rather atypical of residences designed in linear stretches, now stands at the exact precipice of the old and the new. This way, the occupants enter the black-painted timber adorned spaces of the original home, before being led into the dramatic gallery-like foyer that the house’s owner continually cycles with new artefacts.
"With an artist owner, the control of light both natural and artificial, framing of views, and creating rich and textured but subtle surfaces were critical to complement the array of rotating art and sculpture that will adorn the home,” state the design team at Splinter Society on these considerations. Hand brushed timbers, plasters, even concrete, and ceramic tiles outline this complimentary muted backdrop, accompanied by more dramatic finishes using dark mirrors, metal sheeting, and decorative steelwork, delving into the theatrics of space to host art.