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An Elwood Bungalow That Draws From Within

Architecture

California bungalows are known for their generous front porches and decorative features, but less so their connections to the outdoors.

Recognising these shortcomings in an Elwood property, Rob Kennon Architects devised an innovative addition bordering a circular garden, carved from the previously overlooked backyard.

Inspired by the planning of Roy Grounds’ Hill Street House (circa 1954), the compact plan is a series of radially connected spaces, where the outdoors permeates daily life.

20th September, 2021

Elwood Bungalow by Rob Kennon is devised around a central courtyard. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The addition’s planning is reminiscent of Roy Grounds’ Hill Street House (circa 1954) in Toorak, which also features a circular, glass-walled courtyard. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Rob Kennon worked closesly with Eckersley Garden Architecture to bring this circular internal courtyard vision to life. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The subtracted circular garden creates an inward floorplan that looks onto itself. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The absence of corners bordering these spaces enables an endless fluctuation of views to the courtyard and lighting conditions across the space. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A clever division of space to create a living area within the circular curve. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Connection to the outside is present in every area of the home. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A bedroom in the new dwelling. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The main bedroom. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

An exterior view. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Looking into the main bedroom from the courtyard. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

This addition doesn’t seek to compete with the home’s original architecture, but rather sit as a materially restrained and formally simplistic backdrop. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Amelia Barnes
Monday 20th September 2021

‘We didn’t have any opportunities outwards, so we needed to look inwards.’ – Rob Kennon

In the words of architect Rob Kennon, Elwood Bungalow is a project that relies on the idea of subtracting space, as much as adding it.

Rather than retain the property’s overshadowed backyard surrounded by neighbours, Rob Kennon Architects saw an opportunity to carve space from this area for the extension around a central courtyard, designed in close collaboration with Eckersley Garden Architecture. This low-lying addition builds square up to all three of the property’s rear boundaries, and subtracts a circle garden out from the middle, creating an inward floor plan that looks onto itself.

‘They were an open-minded client who didn’t come with any preconceived ideas of what they wanted. They just gave us the opportunity to solve this problem that the rear of the block was overshadowed and overlooked,’ says Rob.

The addition’s planning is reminiscent of Roy Grounds’ Hill Street House (circa 1954) in Toorak, which also features a circular, glass-walled courtyard.

‘I remember I visited the Hill Street House early in my studies of architecture, and it sort of always sat with me as a really significant project in the history of Melbourne architecture,’ recalls Rob. ‘The thing that resonated with me there was that it was a singular idea that carried through and solved a problem. It’s such a memorable response.’ 

Rob recognised this project in particular would benefit from a similar arrangement. ‘It was appropriate for this site,’ he says. ‘We didn’t have any opportunities outwards, so we needed to look inwards.’

Internally, the addition contains all communal areas of the home as well as the main bedroom.  The absence of corners bordering these spaces enables an endless fluctuation of views to the courtyard and lighting conditions across the space. Connection to the outdoors permeates daily life, and one’s experience within this space is never without the garden or sky.

This addition doesn’t seek to compete with the home’s original architecture, but rather sit as a materially restrained and formally simplistic backdrop. Weighted materials (masonry walls, concrete floors and ceiling) complement the concrete wall construction of its interwar counterpart, while the textural palette (painted brick, timber joinery, and fine tiles) interprets existing features such as the stucco and decorative timber work into a modern context.

Existing rooms of the house have also been opened up and reconfigured, with original features restored. ‘You still walk in the same door, but you’ve got connections to light, air and green,’ says Rob.

Another inspired collaboration between Rob Kennon Architects and Eckersley Garden Architecture, this is a project that pushes the boundaries of contemporary home design. 

Elwood Bungalow by Rob Kennon Architects is shortlisted in Residential Architecture of The Design Files + Laminex Awards 2021, presented by COLORBOND® steel.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net