Kennedy Nolan’s interiors are beautifully composed. The palette of textured cream surfaces bolstered by the purity of white makes for an impeccably calming and satisfying field of vision. Limed timber joinery is soft and warm and embraces me throughout the house, and is often bevelled and off-grid, so as to promote a meandering line throughout the building, creating spaces and objects to explore and touch. Strong sculptural elements appear where they are most useful and enjoyed. In a playful chess-like stand-off, an oversized timber cruciform column at the edge of the kitchen is the internal ballast to the external brick fireplace and wood store in the adjacent courtyard.
The salient problems of the suburbs as defined by Boyd were–and still are–sprawl, aesthetics and sustainability. The Laver House is an excellent counter to Boyd’s ‘unthinking aesthetics of our suburbia’ simply in breathing new life into a tired building, by not allowing it to wallow in redundancy and architectural erraticism. Kennedy Nolan has taken a disjointed building and cured its split personality disorder by applying a well-orchestrated series of material and formal tactics with fluency and skill. These architects have reduced the previous anomalies, and introduced strong guiding principles for the building that are robust enough to ensure that the line between new and old is difficult to identify. They answer the question of how to contribute well to the suburbs by doing precisely what Boyd expected of them–in order to densify the suburbs, you must make better use of the space, efficiently and more pleasurably. There will be none of the famous verbal laceration here–this is a formally and programmatically engaging house, and it is a cohesive singular building that will stand and deliver for decades to come.
By the time a wealthy Rio couple hired architect Marcio Kogan and his associates to dream up a summer retreat for them, their house was already taking form. There’s a certain template that any right-minded architect would follow when building in the mountains north of Rio, where only rounded granite peaks interrupt the thick weave of rain forest. The landscape–rife with ferns and high, thin trunks–resembles Rio’s site when it was still wild and undeveloped. Part of the Atlantic Rain forest, this area rivals the Amazon in density and diversity of vegetation. Given the lushness and the privacy it affords, it’s best to let jungle be jungle: Build a terrarium in reverse–a viewing platform raised on stilts and nestled into the tree canopy’s green shadows.
High above Lake Maggiore, House Bucerius has a breathtaking view exploited by Richard Neutra to the full. This huge villa, which cost a small fortune to build, was the most elaborate one ever erected by Neutra in Europe and can be regarded as a milestone of his later work. It has been painstakingly and exquisitely restored and renovated by its current owner.
Bucerius House, Brione, Switzerland, 1966 by Richard Neutra, Photography by Iwan Baan
In 1955, Gerrit Rietveld (1884-1964) designed a pavilion for the display of small sculptures at the Third International Sculpture Exhibition in Arnhem’s Sonsbeek Park. This ‘Sonsbeek Pavilion’ was intended as a temporary structure, and it was dismantled when the exhibition was over. However, many people had been greatly impressed by its simplicity, and ten years later, on the initiative of several Dutch architects, the building found a permanent home in the Kröller-Müller Museum’s sculpture garden, under a new name: the ‘Rietveld Pavilion’. On 8 May 1965 the pavilion was officially inaugurated with an exhibition of sculptures by Barbara Hepworth.
From the very outset, the maintenance of the Rietveld Pavilion was a constant source of concern. The main questions were how to protect the minimalist structure (made of concrete, brick, steel, glass, wood and paint) against the ravages of time without compromising its delicate, temporary character, and how to preserve this more or less faithful replica of the Arnhem pavilion (which was originally intended to be temporary) for posterity. Every conceivable method was considered and tried, from conservation and restoration to copying and replacing parts of the building, but it eventually became clear that the structure was beyond saving.
The 1965 pavilion has now been disassembled. Today, in 2010, the museum has rebuild the structure with new materials, while adhering as closely as possible to Gerrit Rietveld’s original design. Wherever possible, parts of the 1965 pavilion that were still in adequate condition have been reused. Construction work began in January 2010 and finished in September of this year. The new, third version of the pavilion now stands in the museum’s sculpture garden, preserving Rietveld’s world-famous design for the future.
Rietveld Pavilion, by Gerrit Rietveld, at the Kröller-Müller Sculpture Garden, via: ArchDaily
Allandale House is an A-frame(s) house for an idiosyncratic connoisseur and her family. Along with its occupants, the Allandale House also provides space for an eccentric collection of artifacts that resist straightforward classification. Wines, rare books, stuffed birds and an elk mount are among the relics on display in this small vacation house.
The house links three horizontal extrusions of “leaning,” or asymmetrical A-frames. The skinny A-frame on the western side contains the library, wine cellar and garage. The wide A-frame in the center of the house is dedicated to two floors of bedrooms and bathrooms. The medium A-frame on the eastern side consists of living, kitchen and dining areas. The house aims to undermine the seeming limitations of a triangular section by augmenting and revealing the extreme proportion in the vertical direction, and utilizing the acutely angled corners meeting the floor as moments for thickened walls, telescopic apertures and built-in storage.
The relationship between the need for exposed storage and the interior liner of the house is a reciprocal one. Ostensibly problematic head-height limitations posed by the angled ceiling/wall planes are resolved by allowing the interior surface of the ceiling/wall to deviate from the roof surface as it nears the floor plane to become plumb. The thickness created between the outer roof surface and the inner wall surface is then reclaimed as poche from which to carve, creating bookshelves and showcases. Perceptually, the ambition is to tuck the pieces on display within the implied surface of the interior liner, enabling the items to be seen, while providing the possible conception of the space as a simple volume.
Allandale House, Mountain West, by, William O’Brien Jr.
In brilliant daylight, the Salt Point House has an ethereal presence as elusive and weightless as a mirage, its edges seemingly dissolving into the surrounding forested landscape. Yet with changing light, the house transforms itself, shifting by turns from gossamer and nearly transparent to opaque and quietly monumental. Perhaps even more remarkable: the architecture achieves these poetic qualities with a modest palette of ordinary materials and simple volumes.
In the most basic terms, the house is an open-ended, painted-cedar box, lined in maple plywood and overlaid on two sides with corrugated screens of perforated, stainless steel. Its brief could hardly have been more humble. The clients, a New York City couple, wistful for the key elements of their former weekend getaway–the rustic hunting shack they had once hoped to buy–wanted a small, comfortable, easily maintained, two-bedroom retreat with an open living area and a screened-in porch. Certainly, no exotic requirements, but in the sheer modesty and economic restraint of this commission, the architects found opportunity to distill form, proportion, materiality, and detail to their essence. Inspiration also came, abundantly, from the site–an idyllic clearing on a wooded, nine-acre parcel in New York’s Hudson Valley, along a pond that spills into a small waterfall.
Outside, the rippled screens, veils of stainless steel, simultaneously hide and reveal, filtering readings out to the landscape and in to the structure’s pure volumes, its solids, shadows, and flickering voids. At once deep and lightly layered, both transparent and opaque, the perforated metal cloak registers muted reflections of the surroundings in seasonal flux. Even the screened-in porch is detailed with minimalist precision, as if simply delineating a great, cubic volume of air. This is an architecture that accepts yet transcends the sheer simplicity of the plywood box, expressing and dematerializing the skin as it quietly renders the prosaic sublime.
Nobody involved in extending a 1938 clinker-brick home in Hampton wanted a single-room rear addition — not the architect, Patrick Kennedy from Kennedy Nolan Architects, nor the client. “We had that in Sydney,” the client says, “and it drove me insane with the TV and kitchen and everybody together in the one space.
“We wanted a central kitchen but a separate living space, where we could read without hearing the washing machine. “With two pre-teen daughters, “I like the idea of people having spaces to go to,” she says. Kennedy concurred. “We’ve always avoided that big, open-plan space because although they look nice, they are hard to live in.” Instead, he and design partner Rachel Nolan added a central corridor to the rear of what he calls “quite a modest house in a modest street”. A study/guest bedroom was added to one side and a simple living room “pavilion” to the other. The addition comprised the substantial use of glass, with white-painted, rough-textured brickwork and exposed Victorian ash beams and joinery. In its lines, it’s a nod to both Californian and Victorian modernism, an aesthetic admired by both architect and client. “It draws on the 1970s idea of the modernist tradition, which has a handmade quality,” Kennedy says, “and that’s nice in a domestic environment.”
Rather than knocking down the original clinker brick, which was one proposition floated by the client, the architects dexterously reconfigured the flow and function of the old rooms and tied the whole thing together with Victorian ash — in paneling, cupboards and beams — and flooring of a grey-stained travertine marble. This palette of materials sounds challenging in the context of a pre-World War II house yet it works on many levels, not only in meeting and matching the innate solidity and surface texture suggested by clinker brick but, Kennedy says, “it affects the acoustics. The rafters and the travertine break up the sound and you feel the solidity and tranquility on a psychological level. Silence is nice. I hate noisy houses. “It’s all beautiful, durable, textural material and, as with the timber that will deepen in colour, it all improves with age.”
The client wanted a house where he could relax in calm and privacy among his family and friends and enjoy his extensive art collection. The site for the building is on a mixed vernacular residential / light industrial street close to the clients companies offices. On the inside of this shape a continuous glass wall opens the generous circulation and living rooms to this “heart”, the social core of the house. Designed for easy living, it is here that guests are invited to enjoy the light, space and art. To the outside the walls of the building are mostly closed however: smooth surfaces of white plasterwork, only sparsely punctuated with large windows where needed for the more intimate rooms that cradle the transparent inner space.
A tired and dilapidated terrace located in eclectic Darlinghurst Sydney and one of a collection of three row houses built circa 1860 was given a face lift from the inside leaving no trace of new work to the street facade or the rear façade which overlooks adjacent terrace houses. The existing configuration and areas of the row house consisted of a bedroom and bathroom to the lower ground floor, kitchen and living to the ground floor with poor courtyard access, and 2 bedrooms with a shared bathroom to the upper floor. The concept and approach to the internal fit-out consists of minimal structural impact and rearranging the existing spaces to create a more fluid approach in the arrangement of living, dining and sleeping spaces. The palette of materials and colour was reduced to creating a white perimeter of walls and ceiling with selected joinery elements painted in black, a dark coloured timber and concrete floor and surprises of yellow randomly splashed about connecting the three floors visually. A new opening was created in the existing wall dividing the kitchen to the living, thus creating a more open and light filled space with a sense of connectedness to both living spaces.
Storage and spatial qualities of the existing rooms were considered and also became design cues to create adaptable and interesting rooms for living. The kitchen features a bespoke joinery unit with built in concealed and visible storage boxes with an integrated fold down table which depending on it being in the open or closed position can transform the space and the pattern of use. This ‘Tetris wall’ offers the Ground Floor the only real burst of colour and this, in combination with the use of timber floor and vertical screen offsets the coolness generated by the black and white, with a genuine warmth.
The vertical screen is a series of floor to ceiling vertical hardwood timber planks and replaces a dull stair balustrade. The screen allows for visual relationship between living and dining whilst integrating the traditional stair construction, which was retained and links the two objects visually. The screen further enhances the pure perimeter of ‘white’ by it’s central positioning.
The client asked for an architectural box in an interesting site in the western suburbs of Melbourne; however, ODR Architects devised a response that shows consideration for context, history, climate, materials, urbanism and program.
The proposal for the new house embraced the materiality and the fabric of the laneway. We looked at Footscray in a wider context, and proposed an elevated recycled corrugated shipping container with zero setbacks, reminiscent of the docks that have such a strong presence in the area. However, the client and council had reservations about the corrugated iron, with the council asking the architects to ignore the sheds, setbacks and fences of the immediate surrounds and requesting a roof. This did not meet the brief from the clients; and we therefore needed to reconsider the design.
In the finished design, the house exterior turns its back on the context. There are no obvious windows, no articulation, no surveillance, just a foreign object in a laneway. Internally, the courtyard forms the centrepiece. The internal spaces revolve around this space, which heats and cools the space as well as providing separation in plan. It also unifies function. The residents circulate around it, cook in it, and breathe through it; opening the doors changes the environment inside. It also serves as a reminder of the surroundings – the two conditions juxtapose each other, giving validation to both. We have also allowed the outside world to engage through transparency and blurred moments of living.