Kavellaris Urban Design merges art gallery and urban neo-Baroque in JARtB House

Designed as a residence for architect Billy Kavellaris in Melbourne, Australia, the home uses art to mould spatial order, employing Digiglass murals and gallery-inspired layouts.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Sep 06, 2021

Framed by spreading tree canopies in an upscale suburban neighbourhood in Melbourne, Australia, JARtB House first presents itself through an angled Digiglass façade, featuring a polychromatic mural by Spain-based artist duo PichiAvo. From the main driveway, the path leading up to the structure is an immersive journey in and of itself, as a montage of classical sculptures and swirling colours gradually reveals a depth of intricate detail on the home's exterior. Designed by architect Billy Kavellaris, Director of Kavellaris Urban Design (KUD), as his personal residence, JARtB House was envisioned as a space capable of bridging the current divide between modern art and architecture - commonly regarded as two distinct techne.

  • Interlocking volumes of the Digiglass façade and stepped entryway define the exterior | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Interlocking volumes of the Digiglass façade and stepped entryway define the exterior Image: Peter Benetts
  • A white paving strip defines the path towards the entryway, finished in off-form concrete | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    A white paving strip defines the path towards the entryway, finished in off-form concrete Image: Peter Benetts

Emerging from this desire, the home endeavours to capture the ambience and spatial logic of an art gallery, combined with the functionality of residential design. Described by the architects as a hybridisation of a space that merges two diametrically opposing typologies into a singular expression, JARtB House treats art as an element that moulds spatial order, rather than solely as ornamentation for a predetermined design. “Art is not defined as ‘in’ or ‘on’ the building, the building is the artifact. JARtB House’s intervention into its context becomes a social and cultural act - it is public art masquerading as a building in a residential setting,” mentions KUD.

  • Inner side of the circular entry portal | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Inner side of the circular entry portal Image: Peter Benetts
  • The black grated front door features an ornate sculptural handle | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    The black grated front door features an ornate sculptural handle Image: Peter Benetts

This notion at first, manifests with the interlocking volumes of the home’s façade design, composed of the Digiglass mural and a circular entryway surrounded by a receding stepped edifice in off-form concrete. A programmatic flooring strip ‘anointed in pure white (the language of the art gallery)’ leads up to the entrance, cutting through the home’s interior and extending towards the site’s opposing edge to define the project’s overarching theme. At this point, the grated front door with its ornate, sculptural handle swings away to reveal a sequence of artworks from Kavellaris’ collection, adorning a concrete wall replete with tie holes. A linear trajectory through the residence is created by the white flooring strip, serving as both primary circulation route and scenic gallery aisle.

  • A concrete wall replete with tie holes hosts objects such as the red column, alongside Billy Kavellaris’ collection of art | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    A concrete wall replete with tie holes hosts objects such as the red column, alongside Billy Kavellaris’ collection of art Image: Peter Benetts
  • An array of artwork is arranged along the white flooring strip to define the gallery theme | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    An array of artwork is arranged along the white flooring strip to define the gallery theme Image: Peter Benetts

As per the architects, the design also explores the ideas behind Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s ‘Decorated Duck’ and ‘Decorated Shed’ throughout its program. Within the home, the two concepts are reinterpreted such that ‘ornamentation becomes more than architectural decoration’ - engaging the artwork on display to move beyond cultural expression and ingrain itself into the structure’s architectural syntax - testing the limits of the art gallery archetype. “JARtB House becomes the alchemical synthesis of the ‘Decorated Duck’ expressed in an urban neo-Baroque paradigm,” mention the architects. The red Corinthian capital of a fluted column, protruding from the white strip below, typifies this notion - defining the focus of the home’s main thoroughfare, flanked by an ocular glass opening to one side, and artwork by PichiAvo on the other. 

  • The blackened steel staircase and grand piano against a timber-panelled backdrop | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    The blackened steel staircase and grand piano against a timber-panelled backdrop Image: Peter Benetts
  • Overhead view of the spiral staircase | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Overhead view of the spiral staircase Image: Peter Benetts

“Tension, juxtaposition and opposition are a central narrative throughout the design which mediates and responds to the site’s eclectic contextual character,” mentions the design team at KUD. Custom timber wall and floor panelling by Made by Storey delineates a space to the left of the gallery aisle, with a grand piano and spiral staircase in blackened steel serving as its foci. The lightness of the timber contrasts with the exposed concrete and extends into the kitchen enclosure, bordered by a double-height dining and living area, placed beneath a sculptural chandelier composed of bulbous modules. A pair of wireframe giraffe sculptures designed by Kavellaris are the highlight of this zone, settled atop silver travertine flooring by G-LUX, which runs throughout all three spaces. The kitchen area, however, is separated from the living and dining spaces by a stone counter with high-top seating. 

  • The main living and dining area | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    The main living and dining area Image: Peter Benetts
  • Two wireframe giraffe sculptures, designed by Billy Kavellaris are the highlight of the space | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Two wireframe giraffe sculptures, designed by Billy Kavellaris are the highlight of the space Image: Peter Benetts

Overlooking the living and dining spaces, a pair of Digiglass openings are punched into the upper wall from sections of the rear façade mural - resembling stained glass windows. Over the course of the day, the home’s north-south orientation and gallery-inspired skylight placement allow soft hues of light to wash over the interior design and artworks on display. The designers relay, “External façades become internal translucent frescoes and a two-way typology emerges.” This idea is repeated on the walls of the bathrooms and master bedroom - where an entire angled wall is dedicated solely for this purpose.

  • The fluted red column juts into the theatre space from an enclosing wall | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    The fluted red column juts into the theatre space from an enclosing wall Image: Peter Benetts
  • Neon ceiling light strips infuse vibrancy into the theatre space on the basement floor | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Neon ceiling light strips infuse vibrancy into the theatre space on the basement floor Image: Peter Benetts

The living area opens into an outdoor pool deck, surrounded by planters. A Billy Kavellaris-designed water feature in the form of a human statue occupies a section of the perimeter wall towards the site’s rear edge. On the basement floor below, spaces include a guest bedroom, common bath, and a theatre with a study. Within the theatre, the red column from the gallery zone above juts into the space from its bounding wall, adding a sense of vibrancy to the interiors, complemented by a twirling neon ceiling light strip. On the top floor, three bedrooms define the majority of the spatial layout, arranged in a linear strip that mimics the gallery on the floor below. Textured marble in hues of light and dark grey dresses the surfaces of the master bedroom and bathrooms, countering the bold colours of the Digiglass openings punched into their walls.

  • Textured marble walls complement the bold colours of the façade mural in the master bedroom | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Textured marble walls complement the bold colours of the façade mural in the master bedroom Image: Peter Benetts
  • Textured marble is also featured in the finishes of the bathrooms | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Textured marble is also featured in the finishes of the bathrooms Image: Peter Benetts

Speaking to STIR, Kavellaris comments on how the project was a unique experience for him, stating that “as the owner, architect, and builder, the process of construction and procurement provided me with more flexibility to make design decisions during the construction program and also enabled me to resolve buildability matters in real time during site inspection, and have clear visibility of the cost associated with them.”

  • Basement Plan | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Basement Plan Image: Courtesy of Kavellaris Urban Design
  • Ground Level Plan | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Ground Level Plan Image: Courtesy of Kavellaris Urban Design
  • Level One Plan | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
    Level One Plan Image: Courtesy of Kavellaris Urban Design

Additionally, JARtB House also boasts sustainable design features such as rooftop solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and intelligent battery storage mechanisms, alongside elements such as double and triple glazing systems as well as smart home controls. A recurring theme throughout the residential architecture is the dialogue and contrast between strong rectilinear forms and softer curving geometries. The carefully curated material palette adds another layer to this interaction, accentuating and moderating the qualities of various elements where desired.

Sections | JARtB House by Kavellaris Urban Design | STIRworld
Sections Image: Courtesy of Kavellaris Urban Design

A testament to the everlasting historical links between art and architecture, JARtB House exemplifies the notion of ‘liveable art’, as a space ripe with meaning and experience - instilled through the theatrical confluence of art, light, technology, materials, and geometry. Having elevated the functional status of the artwork on display to that of an indispensable driving force behind the entire residence’s design, the architects conclude, “Art informs architecture and program. Art becomes an architectural element. Art now has spatial utility.”

Project Details

Name: JARtB House
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Area: 525 sqm
Architect: Kavellaris Urban Design
Client: Billy Kavellaris
Structural Engineer: O’Neil Group
Façade: Cooling Brothers
Land Surveyor: BPD
ESD Consultant: Enrate
Building Surveyor: The Good Men Building Surveyors
Stone & Tiles: G-Lux
Fireplace: Oblica
Tapware: Roger Seller
Interior Lighting: Lights & Tracks, Mark Douglass
Interior Furniture: Boca De Lobo, Space, Dedece, Voyager, Beberir, HUB, Billy Kavellaris
Artwork: PichiAvo, Billy Kavellaris
Completed: 2020

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