The ‘Hover House’ by Bower Architecture is an award winning home that creates an interesting model for architects ands shows what can be achieved with infill housing, writes Stephen Crafti.
Located in Mt. Martha on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, there are no signs of this recently completed house from the street. Tucked away behind an existing home and utilising land that was formerly a tennis court, the design by Melbourne practice Bower Architecture, was created for clients who were living in the area and looking to build a permanent home in their retirement years. The resulting residence, dubbed the ‘Hover House’, is an award winning home that creates an interesting model for architects ands shows what can be achieved with infill housing.
One of the starting points in the design was the owners’ rustic country home, originally once a farm shed. “There’s a sense of honesty in the way concrete is expressed,” says Architect Chema Bould, co-director of the Melbourne-based practice. While this robust country house was one catalyst for the design, the impetus primarily came from the site, bordered by suburban style houses on four sides. Rather than focus on these homes, an internal courtyard became pivotal to the design. “The idea of the courtyard was established fairly quickly, but we were also conscious of borrowing views from the broader neighbourhood,” says Bould, pointing out the established Eucalypt trees.
All images: Shannon McGrath
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A long driveway leads to a relatively ‘abstract’ form. A warehouse-like profile, clad in cement sheeting, painted black, is the first glimpse of the house. And beyond the garage/carport, vignettes of the Mt. Eliza house start to appear. A timber-battened wall, bordering a walkway, offers glimpses of the courtyard, with its solitary bolder and singular Japanese maple set on gently undulating lawn. “The rock was a key feature of the design from the start. It was found on site and was regularly moved by the owner’s son (who specializes in golf course design) to different spots,” says Bould.
The single-storey house (approximately 260 square metres including garage and walkways), is clad in cement sheeting on the outside and features exposed concrete blocks inside. Timber battened screens frame the courtyard, creating privacy and sun-control for bedrooms and act as another layer to this simple, yet complex home. “The entire house can be easily opened up or closed, depending on the weather, or the situation,” says Bould, who included large glass and aluminium sliding doors to the courtyard that allows a seamless connection to the outdoors.
Bower Architecture’s clients also wanted the house to be zoned, in order to conserve energy, as well as provide spaces that respond to those using the house. When they’re entertaining, the doors to the carport are left open to increase the outdoor space. And in winter, when retaining heat is paramount, sliding doors, located in cavity walls, delineate spaces and close off the guest bedroom wing (including two bedrooms and a bathroom).
Irrespective of the season, or occasion, the owners, family and friends, gravitate to the fluid and spacious kitchen and living areas. The concrete fireplace in the lounge area acts as an ‘anchor’, particularly during the colder months of the year, while the raked timber ceiling, with generous eaves, eliminates the harsher light during the summer period. “Our clients have a fireplace in their country house, so this was a feature from the start of the design discussions,” says Bould.
Concrete floors throughout the living areas continue to a slightly elevated platform-like terrace (skimming off the lawn). “That’s the reason the house is called the ‘Hover House’,” says Bould, who was keen to blur the threshold between indoors and out. “The house appears to touch the earth lightly,” she adds.
In contrast to the minimal internal garden, the deck and garden adjacent to the main bedroom (with its ensuite and study nook) is dense and lush. “The owners love gardening. They wanted something that allowed them to get their hands in the dirt,” says Bould. “They also wanted to ‘green’ the edges of the property,” she adds.
The Mt. Eliza house, recipient of an Architecture Award (Victorian Chapter) in this year’s award program, is a relatively simple home, with few partitions and considered detailing. But it also suggests a new model in housing, where back yards, even tennis courts, can find a new use, particularly for those looking for quality and modest homes that respond to people and how they choose to live.
By Stephen Crafti
All images: Shannon McGrath