by Neometro
 

A Japanese Sensibility

Architecture - by Open Journal
  • Workshop Architecture 's South Yarra house blends into its streetscape of Victorian terrace houses giving little indication of the striking modification within.

This double-fronted Victorian terrace, located in South Yarra, doesn’t stand out from others built at the same time. The heritage-listed streetscape was one driver in the renovation by Workshop Architecture. The other was returning from Japan, with architect James Staughton, co-director of the practice, inspired by some of the more traditional buildings visited. “You regularly see timber columns framing stairwells and views through a building being orchestrated and slowly unveiled,” says Staughton.

Although these Japanese details are only revealed past the front door of the South Yarra home, they are captured at various points inside. The strong axial passage that ‘slices’ through the house, typical of many double-fronted Victorian homes, ends with a translucent glass window. “Before, you could see straight through to the back fence,” says Staughton, who retained the front of the house, only lightly reworking the period rooms (new joinery and painting). 

Period charm is retained at the front of the property with the neutral airy modification and accents of Japanese aesthetics evident as you move through the house.

Renovated for a couple with two young children, the brief to Workshop Architecture was to use the existing structure (including a late 1980s addition) but reconfigure the spaces and inject more timber. “Our clients were keen to have a fairly neutral palette. But they also embraced the Japanese aesthetic,” says Staughton. 

Although the 1980s extension, with its 6 metre-high void, was light-filled, this space wasn’t previously used efficiently according to Staughton. “The owners were looking for an additional bedroom, as well as a separate play area/rumpus room for the children. They were also attached to the idea of having the vertical space they inherited.” So rather than simply cut into this void, Workshop Architecture designed two bridge-like structures that traversed it, one leading to the children’s play area, the other to a shared bathroom for the children’s bedrooms. “It solved the problem of creating additional rooms, while still allowing for connectivity, given the children are still quite young,” says Staughton. 

Bridge-like structures traverse an airy creating additional rooms, while still allowing for connectivity.

The children’s play area, orientated to the northern rear garden, includes a built-in window seat to allow north-south views of the side garden. The architects also included a wrap-around curtain in this space, to allow privacy when needed. “This room (playroom) can equally function as a guest bedroom, with our clients often having guests from overseas stay,” says Staughton. 

As part of the renovation, the architects installed new large sliding glass doors from the open plan kitchen, dining and living area to strengthen the connection to the garden. “If you notice, the garden paths and beds mirror the lines in the home’s rear elevation,” says Staughton.

Although the South Yarra house has been extensively reworked, the owners were mindful of not exceeding their budget. So rather than fill the house with lavish finishes and expensive materials, Workshop Architecture used simple timber veneers. The kitchen, for example, includes walnut and sycamore veneer joinery. Timber veneer joinery was also used for built-in cupboards in both the children’s and main bedroom suite. To ensure acoustic control, grey felt panels are wedged between the exposed timber beams. “The felt absorbs sound, paramount when rooms, such as the play area, can be open to the void,” says Staughton. Other efficient measures included using translucent fluted glass for the balustrades on the bridges/walkways on the first floor. 

Simple timber veneers and felt wall treatments are beautiful solutions to budget constraints and ensure acoustic control.

Workshop Architecture has embraced the Japanese aesthetic through subtle materiality and attention to the quality of space.

Workshop Architecture was keen to retain the home’s original footprint. “It’s still a spacious house and has all the required rooms set out in the original brief. It now just responds to the way our clients live,” adds Staughton.

Workshop Architecture can be contacted on 9326 8322.

Words by Stephen Crafti.

Images by Shannon Mcgrath.

 

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