by Nadezna SiganporiaOct 29, 2022
The architectural narrative of Australia hails from a multitude of influences, primarily from western explorations of contemporary design. However, the climatic peculiarities and cultural aspects of the continent led to the emergence of a style that shares its characteristics with the western world, but concludes into an architecture rooted in Australian identity. Embracing this relationship, Melbourne-based Splinter Society wraps Italian design principles in traditional Australian architecture in Villa Italia, a second-generation family home, located in Brunswick East in Melbourne.
Designed as a renovation and extension to the existing classic single-fronted Victorian terrace, the home aims to respond to the existing urban character and density. Nestled behind a narrow facade, the renovation follows the architectural language of its context and location. While imagining the old structure in a contemporary setting, the architects balanced relevant features of both design approaches in the intervention. The original character of the villa moves to the renewed identity, in the form of a facade sandblasted to reveal the existing masonry, as well as historic gable and chimney, often found in traditional Australian homes. Modern additions occupy the structure through contemporary details such as a repurposed Romanian metal fence, a feature door, and rough stone paving.
"Every project is grounded in solid principles of functionality and environmental sustainability," share Asha Nicholas and Chris Stanley of Splinter Society, on the design process of the villa renovation. Owing to this intent of the Australian architects, an open plan was iterated for this project, responding to site constraints and providing room for custom elements, aiding different functions. In a multitude of configurations, the seating spaces can be configured to accommodate gatherings hosted for the clients' large Italian family. “We work closely with our clients to extract key elements for personal enjoyment in the residential projects,” share the architects. To further separate spaces in the open plan, custom joinery and furniture design were employed. Along with being a passive separation, the joinery details expand to be storage shelves for the client to showcase his collections.
Channelling ample natural light into the interiors is the solid-void relationship in the structure. Through skylights and terraces, the light enters the residence from carefully crafted openings, creating an interesting play of light and shadow. The drama of the light on the stairs is elevated by the minimal design of the perforated partition.
Splinter Society's residential interior design project follows a cohesive design language juxtaposing exposed concrete, wood, bold interior elements in black accompanied by stone finishes. “We work to create distinctly tactile projects, drawing on layered influences,” mention the architects, about their interior design philosophy. Villa Italia follows a similar design language of balancing design features in the colour tones of light and dark.
Referencing the patina of an archetypical Italian village, the material palette consists of walls layered with fresco finishes, bespoke upholstery, textured stonework, and parquet timber flooring. Amid the modern and contemporary design characteristics of the residence, an element of surprise is brought by vibrant colours of selective furniture.
Villa Italia extends an experience of transitioning from old to new. Concluding the interior design approach of the renovation, Splinter Society states, “Drawing on the clients' heritage, the redesign is guided by qualities often associated with Italian brands: fine craftsmanship, sophistication, elegance, and a touch of luxury.”
As once-colonised countries are moving away from the architectural practices of their colonisers, globalisation seems to be the new driving force. Architectural styles, thus emerging, seem to borrow from the uniqueness of different cultures from around the world, blending it with their own vernacular architecture. Though we are yet to see where this leads, it seems to be an interesting new beginning.
(Text by Ria Jha, intern at STIRworld)