Controlled Openness and Retreat - Brighton House by Rob Kennon Architects
Brighton, VIC, Australia
Rob Kennon Architects’ Brighton House takes its cues from the coastal location in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton, uniting a traditional palette with contemporary design to create spaces of controlled openness and retreat.
The Brighton House creates an interplay of “some very large, open spaces, and hidden retreats throughout”, says Rob Kennon. As one moves from the existing Edwardian terrace to the new extension, there is a deliberate sense of flow and connectedness that is grounded in its traditional and simplified palette. Designed and built for a family with growing sons, a sense of robust materiality was a key driver, as was the client’s wish for a connection to the home’s proximity to the coast. Rob says that through “textures of white, and subtleties of ‘white’ being interwoven into the spaces, this connection to place and context is created”.
Rob Kennon Architects’ Brighton House takes its cues from the coastal location in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton.
The openings are “controlled and punctuated in a very regular fashion”, and Rob notes that “we wanted, in one movement, to go from inside to outside”. The client’s desire for a ‘breezy house’ formed the premise for their brief, and hence informed materiality. Almost in contrast to the existing lightweight construction with rigid openings and formal rooms, the extension is grounded in its concrete, painted brick and open-spanning spaces. To create a space that “wasn’t too precious” was at the forefront of all decisions, whilst still retaining the original detail and ‘delicacy’ of the original home.
The home unites a traditional palette with contemporary design to create spaces of controlled openness and retreat
Rob Kennon Architects believe in a varied approach to light, a focus on orientation and a holistic understanding of site. Above all, Rob explains that they emphasise the importance of “having a good dialogue (with the client) to understand how they want to use their home”. Although there are positives and negatives that come with the saturation of reference imagery for clients to access via social media when establishing their brief, Rob sees such images more as “inspiration, not (necessarily) solutions”. This also is part of the continuing conversation he has with their clients to, as he says, “be constantly making the project better”.
A sense of robust materiality was a key driver, as was the client’s wish for a connection to the home’s proximity to the coast.
As a result of this approach, Brighton House sees a series of open, light-filled north-facing spaces, and also precise, deep-eaved narrow fenestration solutions around areas where light needs to be controlled. Joinery and strong connecting lines disguise places of retreat such as the playroom, and are key to creating a hierarchy of functionality and how inhabitant engage with the spaces by encouraging softened acoustics or regulated lighting.
“The openings are controlled and punctuated in a very regular fashion”.
Brighton House’s palette is a combination of pine-lining boards, American oak and concrete slab flooring, recycled painted brick, white Carrara marble and Corian, and is the outcome of listening intently to their client. A ‘no-nonsense’ approach to the joinery creates a timeless feel and a sense of calm, while subtly referencing the coastal location. “A connection to the backyard, and being able to watch the children play” was a key design and planning feature and the overall flow of the spaces allow for this. With a strong connection to the external environment, most notably nearby Brighton beach, the design finds inspiration in the limitlessness of the nearby ocean, refusing to feel limited to any traditional suburban footprint.
Brighton House sees a series of open, light-filled north-facing spaces, and also precise, deep-eaved narrow fenestration solutions around areas where light needs to be controlled.
Rob’s philosophy is grounded on “not necessarily doing what hasn’t been done before, but in doing it well”. He notes that there is a “great culture in Australian architecture at the moment, and a healthy level of competitiveness”, driven by the availability of project information, the sharing of ideas and the immediacy of digital and printed media across all disciplines. He sees that “experience is a great thing, and with each project you gain confidence to try new things while also refining details, taking risks and finding the resolution so that the approach is a lot more refined”. His practice is grounded on these principles and the countless finely-honed projects are testament to this method. A timeless, robust, celebration of the old whilst making way for the new – Brighton House is an exemplar of this approach in action, creating well-crafted architecture for life.