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Two Buildings + Two Courtyard Gardens = One Clever Inner City Home

Architecture

Australian residential blocks are typically structured as a dwelling at the front, with a garden at the back, but have you ever stopped to question why? Architect Rob Kennon has, and he’s not convinced this arrangement always provides the best outcome.

In this recent Fitzroy North project, Rob and his team set out to challenge the traditional rhythm of a house with a backyard. The home instead consists of two buildings  – one a contemporary interpretation of a workers’ cottage, followed by the main two-storey house – with a main central garden in between them, then a second garden at the very back!

10th July, 2020

This Fitzroy North house spans two buildings, with a main garden between them. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The  living spaces are on the ground floor of the rear, two-storey building on site. Photo – Derek Swalwell

A utilitarian material palette of cement sheet, brick, and galvanised steel flow through the home obscuring the spatial boundaries of the living environments.  Photo – Derek Swalwell

Details in the contemporary kitchen. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Materials are light and beautiful, while drawing the eye outwards to the garden. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The calm bedrooms hover above, providing areas of shade for the garden below. Photo – Derek Swalwell

A galvanised metal grid encases, shades and limits overlooking from the upper floor private domain, comprising three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Behind the main two-storey building of the house is another courtyard. Photo – Derek Swalwell

This project explores abstraction and rethinks the typical urban massing of the terrace house typology, resulting in an experience more connected to nature than built form. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The new home presents to the public as an abstract silhouette of a double fronted workers’ cottage. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Amelia Barnes
Friday 10th July 2020

‘I think it’s a good model for future development.’ – Rob Kennon

Most Australian residential blocks feature a dwelling followed by a backyard, but in this Fitzroy North house, the garden is literally and conceptually central to the entire project. 

The house itself spans two separate buildings, the first containing a guest bedroom and a workshop. This street-facing building could easily be mistaken as an authentic workers’ cottage upon first glance, but is in fact a newly-constructed structure inspired by the area’s architectural heritage. Rob Kennon Architects have achieved this look by drawing on the proportions of a traditional workers’ cottage, and consolidating the verandah and roof into a single form. Timber battens mask the facade, allowing the traditional proportions of the cottage to be articulated in a graphic manner.

A central corridor leads through the front cottage into the heart of the home – the garden. Designed in close collaboration with Eckersley Garden Architecture, this space maximises access to sunlight and can be viewed from almost every point of the home. 

Following the garden is the main two-storey building of the house, which has been strategically aligned with a neighbouring two-storey home. The main living areas are located below, with bedrooms and bathrooms above. 

Finally, at the rear of the block is another courtyard, which enjoys an outlook through the glass-walled living areas right to the front of the property. ‘I love that it’s this uninterrupted plane from any point,’ Rob says. 

By rethinking a typical terrace house, this project creates a freedom and openness not often experienced on tight inner-city blocks – something Rob hopes to replicate on similar sites. ‘It’s efficient – I think it’s a good model for future development,’ he says. ‘Doing something that’s not typical has turned out to be a viable option for quite a few of those blocks.’ 

View all projects by Rob Kennon Architects here. 

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