by Neometro

The Banks of a Creek

Architecture - by Stephen Crafti

It’s difficult to believe that a rudimentary fibro shack was the only building on this prized lot in Ivanhoe, Melbourne. Spread over 1500 square metres, and fanning out to meet the Yarra Creek, this wedge-shaped sloping site was filled with established oak trees. “It was extremely difficult to navigate the property. We removed just enough trees to allow the new house to ‘breathe’,” says architect Kate Fitzpatrick, co-director of Auhaus Architecture, who worked closely on this project with fellow director, architect Ben Stibbard.

Photographer: Derek Swalwell. Stylist: Nina Provan.

Given the position, as well as the need to create a family home for a couple with two young children, trying to salvage the shack was never an option. “Our clients wanted a low-maintenance contemporary home that responded to the landscape. They loved the verdant site, the rich bird life and the creek below,” says Fitzpatrick. The owners, who first came across Auhaus Architecture in Green Magazine, appreciated the dark and sometimes moody interiors the practice has created in a number of homes. “They saw one of our kitchens with concrete tiles and black joinery. They liked the fact that it wasn’t overtly ‘fashionable’, more intriguing,” she adds.

Photographer: Derek Swalwell. Stylist: Nina Provan.

With a sloping site that falls away from the street (an approximately 30 degree slope across the property), Auhaus Architecture designed a multi-level home, spread across four levels. At the apex is a black timber-clad garage, framed by an established street tree. The owners generally access the house from the garage, via a ‘mud room/laundry’, while family and friends descend into a front forecourt, entering into the hub of the house, the kitchen. “The house is essentially conceived as two wings, one for the children, the other as the main living areas, including the main bedroom ensuite and study nook,” says Fitzpatrick.

Photographer: Derek Swalwell. Stylist: Nina Provan.

While the bedrooms are fully enclosed with plastered and timber-lined walls, areas such as the children’s playroom, located at the ‘knuckle’ of the floor plan, are loosely divided by a change in level, and by the curved timber-battened screen that wraps around into the formal living area. The sunken playroom, evocative of the late 1960s, also responds to many of the post-war homes in the neighbourhood. “Our clients could see where we were coming from. They appreciate the post-war modernist aesthetic, but their sights were on the future,” says Fitzpatrick.

Photographer: Derek Swalwell. Stylist: Nina Provan.

To feel integrated to the heavily treed site, the architects cantilevered the main bedroom and formal living area to the southwest, creating the sense of sitting in the tree canopy from the comfort of an armchair. However, broad terraces, leading from the spaces, also allow the owners to get closer to nature and enjoy the birdlife. “This is a very special location and we were keen to engage with the landscape at every chance,” says Fitzpatrick, who included large picture windows and sliding doors to terraces.

Photographer: Derek Swalwell. Stylist: Nina Provan.

One of the most unusual aspects of the design is the kitchen, which includes a formal dining area at one end. On one side of the marble island bench is the kitchen joinery, framed in timber, while on the other side is a built-in cocktail bar, dedicated to entertaining. “It’s quite engaging for guests to sit around the dining table and see guests as they arrive in the forecourt,” says Fitzpatrick.

The house is a long way from the shack that once existed on the property. However, like the shack, the focus remains on the landscape and feeling that connection, whether on the decks or walking down to the creek. “You can still enjoy walking past the old stone walls and touching the bark trees, but you now see over the entire property and fully appreciate where you are,” adds Fitzpatrick.

Photographer: Derek Swalwell. Stylist: Nina Provan.


Auhaus Architecture can be contacted on 03 9429 4126


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