That Old Chestnut House / FIGR Architecture & Design
Text description provided by the architects. As our cities incrementally and inevitably densify, we look to occupy the tiny nooks and crannies for a place we can call home. Located amongst the hubbub of delivery trucks, bicycles, and a never-ending procession of vehicle traffic; this project sits within a minute 160m2 site, backing onto a key commercial precinct within Cremorne in Melbourne. Despite the site’s context, our client loved the sheer richness and vibrance of the area so much that they set out to make this place a long-term place of residence.
The design brief seeks to maximize comfort, solar passive design, and access to natural light – made all the more challenging due to an impending twelve-storey development to be constructed nearby. To resolve this, the volumes of the proposed additions were planned out in collaboration with the adjoining neighbor who at the time was granted a planning permit for a two-storey extension to the north of the subject site. By working together, views of the sky were in effect doubled and mutual visual privacy for both properties was achieved without the need for physical privacy screens.
The layout is an intentional departure from the typical open plan plug-in to the back of an older house. Instead, functions and spaces straddle the perimeter of the backyard so as to create a continuous interface and connection with the garden and landscaped pergola. Complete with worm composting and a rain garden, the compact but the hard-working backyard is irrigated with a 2500-liter rainwater harvesting tank, provided in addition to solar-boosted hot water and above and beyond-code requirements.
Much like Cremorne itself the concrete, timber, and galvanized steel materiality of the house is imagined as unapologetically gritty and robust. The latter of which, a natural and necessary reference to the immediate historical context of workers’ cottage roofscapes, seen in the local area.
Inside, the walls are lined with Australian spotted gum veneer panels finished with water-based non-solvent sealers and prefinished cement sheets. Plasterboard is used sparingly and only where necessary – such as the tall ‘eggshell’ skylight internal volume, intended to diffuse and amplify incoming daylight.