Challenging the norm – Melbourne

The owners of RaeRae house were preparing to renovate and extend their tired single-fronted terrace in North Fitzroy, Melbourne, when the house next door came up for sale. The two terraces are each sited on long blocks with dual frontage potential, a street at the front and an unusually wide lane at the rear. The newly purchased home showed signs of a previous life but was dilapidated and unlivable. Walls were covered in George Michael and Pat Cash posters and floorboards squatters had pulled up and burnt in the fireplace. Structurally unsound, this home needed to be demolished, however a heritage overlay dictated that the street frontages of both homes must remain. Austin Maynard Architects were asked to combine the neighbouring properties to create a family home and garden for a family of five.
Whilst first appearances may suggest otherwise, logic, reason and rationality are the cornerstones behind the design of RaeRae. Initially it looks to be a fanciful design, an architectural mountain range, but at its core the house is responsive and strategic. The roof form is contextual, every rise and fall is tuned to minimise overshadowing and visual bulk, only truly apparent from above.
The same principle applies to the exterior , the considerable weight of brickwork meets the ground, and is never elevated. Wherever there is an opening, there is timber above, resulting in minimal structural steel, significantly reducing cost while also adding pattern and beauty.
The house is deliberately nuanced for interaction or privacy, every part of the house can be a secluded space, closed off with hidden sliding doors, or opened up to be free flowing. The occupants can be engaged and connected or alone and private. They have both/and, not either/or.
Often highly functional and rational homes are banal, but RaeRae house is Austin Maynard Architects’ attempt at challenging this; to create a rational house filled with secrets and discovery, not for outward show, but for the occupants individual experience and evolving needs. Unconventional but thoroughly logical is the location of the shed and bin storage. Directly behind the old front door, it allows for a wheelbarrow of dirt or firewood to be transported to the garden without going through the house.
High quality and highly sustainable materials are used throughout. Beyond its obvious aesthetic qualities, slate roofing offers a highly robust surface with a lengthy life span and no maintenance. Most importantly slate is a natural material, simply cut out of the earth and installed, it doesn’t go through a resource and carbon hungry manufacturing process, it’s not full of chemicals and it can be un-nailed and re-used in another life.

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