A Serene Japanese-Inspired Home In Melbourne

Extending a heritage home is a common challenge for Melbourne’s residential architects, but there’s nothing common about Highbury Grove.

Designed by Ritz&Ghougassian as the co-director, Gilad Ritz’s, family home, this project in Prahran is defined by its sleek use of concrete block work, and the way the new addition brings the outdoors in. The now extended home features rooms wrapped around a central courtyard, and interior spaces inspired by Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki.

Amelia Barnes

Highbury Grove by Ritz&Ghougassian. Photo – Tom Blachford

The heritage protected worker’s cottage facade. Photo – Tom Blachford

Introducing a large dining area and functional kitchen was a key goal of the project. Photo – Tom Blachford 

A leafy internal courtyard lies directly off the living room and the main bedroom facing opposite. Photo – Tom Blachford

Block work meets timber and brick in the kitchen. Photo – Tom Blachford

Concrete floors blend tonally with the block work, allowing the project to express volume and light. Photo – Tom Blachford

Linen curtains soften the house’s dominant block work. Photo – Tom Blachford

The central courtyard provides light, nature and a sense of depth, while creating interaction between rooms. Photo – Tom Blachford

One of the main timbers in the house is fiddleback. Photo – Tom Blachford

An ensuite off the main bedroom. Photo – Tom Blachford

The uniform concrete block work walls continue into the bedroom. Photo – Tom Blachford

The strong fiddle-back grain of the eucalyptus panels creates a series of figures that cascade themselves across the joinery. Photo – Tom Blachford

Moody bathroom interiors. Photo – Tom Blachford

Block work defines the house, indoors and out. Photo – Tom Blachford

A burnished concrete slab provides the foundation for this masonry composition to rest upon the earth. Photo – Tom Blachford

Amelia Barnes
3rd of April 2020

‘Highbury Grove’ is the Prahran home of Gilad Ritz along with his wife and two children, and designed by his own architecture practice, Ritz&Ghougassian.  

Looking at the heritage facade, there are few clues as to what lies inside. Beyond the original two front bedrooms and entry corridor is what Ritz&Ghougassian co-director Jean-Paul Ghougassian describes as an ‘expression of volume and light, contrasting concrete block work and spotted gum timber.’

The inspiration behind this sleek extension was Japanese architect Arata Isozaki’s essay ‘MA, Space/Time in Japan.’ ‘Isozaki talks about time being a series of moments rather than a continuum, as expressed in the western tradition,’ says Jean-Paul. ‘We sought to express the home as a series of spatial rooms… Walls loosely defining space, allowing the outside world in through a number of apertures and breakout spaces.’

The largest of these breakout spaces is a leafy courtyard lying directly off the living room, with the main bedroom facing opposite. Not only does this courtyard provide light, nature and create a sense of depth between these spaces, it allows these rooms to look directly into one another. 

Unfortunately, much of the original rooms of the house were not in good condition, so spotted gum floors were reinstated throughout, and new hearths built. The original ceiling and walls in the old house, however, were retained. ‘There is something nice about the original building fabric being misaligned and dimpled,’ says Jean-Paul.

The clever spatial planning of Highbury Grove achieves the project’s primary goal: to capture natural light from the adjacent northern laneway, while still maintaining privacy to the interior.

This house was the first project Ritz&Ghougassian worked on both the interiors and architecture, setting the bar high for this young practice’s future!

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