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A Clever Home That Conjures Space

Architecture

In 2016 Artist James Turrell, the famous master of spatial illusion, designed the House of Light in Tokamachi, Japan. The architectural feat is described as a ‘guesthouse for meditation’ and plays with the beauty of shadows and light in Japanese culture.

Madeline Blanchfield Architect’s Coogee House II could be the pragmatic Australian cousin of Turrell’s House of Light. The home transforms light into space, and gently manipulates the restrictions of the closely-neighboured, steep residential setting into an expansive and friendly family home. Read on/dream on below.

29th November, 2018

The street-facing façade of ‘Coogee House II’ by Madeleine Blanchfield architects. Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Robert Walsh.

The spectacular light-filled living and dining area seamlessly integrating outdoor spaces. Photo – Robert Walsh.

The couryard.Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Prue Ruscoe.

The kitchen. Photo – Robert Walsh.

Living and dining spaces. Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Robert Walsh.

The bathroom. Photo – Robert Walsh.

Photo – Robert Walsh.

The bedroom. Photo – Robert Walsh.

Miriam McGarry
Thursday 29th November 2018

The Coogee II home performs gentle acts of magic – conjuring space on a crowded block, borrowing views on a hemmed-in site, and delivering maximum impact on a tight budget. Architect Madeline Blanchfield explains, ‘the house seeks to create a sense of spaciousness and outlook on a difficult site which is steep, long, narrow, has a mono-directional view and is surrounded by many adjoining neighbours.’ Through manipulating light and space, the home has been designed to feel expansive and generous.

Madeline describes that the client’s brief was for a ‘robust and livable home for a young family’ with ‘light-filled and uplifting spaces, and calm materiality.’ The physical constraints of the site were overcome through the introduction of double height courtyards that invite in northern light, and offers a sense of elevation and expansion without encroaching on neighbouring properties.

These courtyards ‘borrow’ peephole views through the floors of the home, transforming a singular outlook into multiple ways of seeing the Coogee coastline. Madeline also explains how the layers of ‘open and glassy spaces on the lower level step down the site and minimise the perceived steepness.’ The indoor-outdoor spaces also bring the landscape into the home, and roof planting further connects the home to its environment.

A sense of light and spaciousness is also encouraged by the materials palette, of white-painted brickwork and rough-cut stone. The upper bedroom floor is shrouded with moveable screens that lend a sense of privacy and containment, in contrast to the open and expansive courtyards. These perforated screens allow light-flow and views out, cast changing shadows throughout the day, and glow softly at night. Again, the architect leverages light into new forms – this time through shifting textures.

The home also uses light as a low-energy strategy. The orientation and sun-shading determined the layout of the home, maximising thermal mass and cross ventilation. The aesthetic form of the home is directly informed by the passive solar design – and aligning with Japanese writer Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s argument that ‘the quality that we call beauty…must always grow from the realities of life.’

While the beauty of this home is undeniable, the true success of the design is how well it supports family life. Madeline sums up, ‘going back once the family had moved in, being in the living room with the morning sun streaming in and the kids playing in the courtyard was very rewarding. That is, after all, what it’s all about.’

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