Framing distinct linear perspectives in the eponymous Colonnade House in Melbourne

Designed by Splinter Society as a modernist extension to an existing Federation-style home, the Colonnade House explores new avenues in open living and rebuilding heritage.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Apr 21, 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 house’s extension from the old Federation-style building emerges as a linear arm, framed by a colonnade | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    The house’s extension from the old Federation-style building emerges as a linear arm, framed by a colonnade Image: Sharyn Cairns
  • The extension allows for a flexible, free flowing layout for the home while connecting the older residence to the garden | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    The extension allows for a flexible, free flowing layout for the home while connecting the older residence to the garden Image: Sharyn Cairns
  • The design of the Colonnade House emerges in contrasts responding to the existing Federation-style residence | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    The design of the Colonnade House emerges in contrasts responding to the existing Federation-style residence Image: Sharyn Cairns

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 gabled roof and colonnade frame arresting perspectives within the home, allowing for loftier spaces | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    The gabled roof and colonnade frame arresting perspectives within the home, allowing for loftier spaces Image: Sharyn Cairns
  • The house’s ordered usage of unadorned concrete is a response to the original structure’s “light-weight” nature | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    The house’s ordered usage of unadorned concrete is a response to the original structure’s “light-weight” nature Image: Sharyn Cairns

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 columns create an alternating system for light to filter through tothe interiors, lending the space a gallery-like feeling | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    The columns create an alternating system for light to filter through tothe interiors, lending the space a gallery-like feeling Image: Sharyn Cairns
  • The house’s muted tonality complements the modernist personality it strives towards | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    The house’s muted tonality complements the modernist personality it strives towards Image: Sharyn Cairns

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.

  • Dramatic surface finishes are used throughout the space to prep it for hosting sculptures and artefacts | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    Dramatic surface finishes are used throughout the space to prep it for hosting sculptures and artefacts Image: Sharyn Cairns
  • Spaces beside the columns in the colonnades are utilised for display or to place daybeds looking into the garden | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    Spaces beside the columns in the colonnades are utilised for display or to place daybeds looking into the garden Image: Sharyn Cairns
  • Ceramic tiles find prominent usage in the bathrooms | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    Ceramic tiles find prominent usage in the bathrooms Image: Sharyn Cairns

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.

  • Plan showcasing the relationship between the old and the new | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    Plan showcasing the relationship between the old and the new Image: Courtesy of Splinter Society
  • Floorplan showing distribution of spaces in the extended layout | Colonnade House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
    Floorplan showing distribution of spaces in the extended layout Image: Courtesy of Splinter Society

"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.

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