Located in Brunswick, Melbourne, Union is a playful, multi-level new home, on a narrow 5.5 metre wide block. A couple with three energetic teenage boys asked for a robust family home they could live in ‘forever’. Union is a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom family house with a study, a basement rumpus room, a roof deck and a carport. However, that’s just the beginning of the story. Union is an example of people literally living on top of each other, and making that part of the joy of the house, rather than a problem.
Designed by innovative Austin Maynard Architects, the house engages with the occupants in fun and dynamic ways. Despite being narrow and stacked, the home never feels cramped as spaces are designed to merge into others in various and sometimes surprising configurations. Using height, sliding walls, voids, and openings, the volume of the rooms is blurred, fluid, and flexible. Here, the standard house layout of cells and corridors has been subverted.
There are split levels and ramps, hidden slopes, concealed steps, and bookcase walls that split apart. Rough brickwork at the front entry – all that remains of the original house, slides behind the new Cross Laminated Timber walls. A ramp leads past the study and guest bedroom/reading retreat, to a central perforated black steel staircase that cuts through four levels within a CLT volume that rises the height of the house. Though intended to be covered up as a structural material, the CLT is exposed throughout, including walls, floors, stairs, ceilings, and doors, unifying the interior.
The studio believes memory is important, and heritage can be lots of fun. Demolishing a building and erasing history is far too easy. Union House is a place of memory, a home the family had lived in for years. Whilst it was a quaint cottage with a lovely facade, there was no stipulation to keep or protect it. Regardless, both the owners and the studio wanted to retain a piece of the home’s former life.