by Jerry ElengicalDec 11, 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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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
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