June 26th, 2019.
Much of Melbourne’s urban culture is enhanced by the warren of laneways that populate its centre. From street art, to hidden gastronomy gems, unassuming doors that mask the heavy thump of music and dead ends that are overlooked by soaring neighbouring buildings. Once the domain of the seedy, laneways are now being coveted for their enviable locations and contrasting persona’s. Where an urban oasis was once something more commonly found high above, leaps in building materials, design and build standards and engineering have resulted in an astonishing evolution of the laneway.
Alongside an ability to build domestic environments that all but shut their doors on their metropolitan thresholds, digital advancements to our work and social lives has meant we hold our physical presence within society in much higher esteem, pushing demand for inner urban spaces that has long been depleted. And so, we are getting creative.
Skinny House, by Oliver du Puy Architects, is an adaptive re-use of a forgotten rear yard of a 19th century Victorian shop in inner Melbourne. The site is only 4.2m wide and is dedicated to the rituals of modern living.
Drawing inspiration from a culture renown for its transformative and transient use of space, Skinny House is an interpretation of the Japanese concept of ‘shinrin-yoku’ or forest bathing – a practice that links immersion in nature to good health. The minimalist structure is animated by large apertures and voids which frame a series of vistas out of the building. Some take in the aspect of the interior courtyard which demonstrates poetic restraint, while others act as an aperture to the context of the house within its metropolitan situation. Highlighting the contrast between interior and exterior amplifies and draws ones attention to the beauty in silence and the power of simplicity.
Light is used as a mediator between space and form by du Puy to change the expression of the interior with time and, in so doing, connect the occupant with nature. This is a building which, despite its locale, evokes associations such as equilibrium, primitive ritual, and connection with ones own senses.