Set in the leafy Melbourne suburb of Caulfield, the Concrete Conceal House by Tecture is a bright and contemporary home that celebrates minimalism in its geometry and palette, and family in its spatiality and detail.
The design is literally and conceptually centred around family – when the client, a mother of three children, approached Tecture the brief focused on the spatial requirements of a home that expressed and nurtured her love of her family. The architects took this as the focal point, working with this idea through the project to create a home that is calm and minimalist, yet deeply imbued with meaning.
The client was first introduced to Tecture, a multidisciplinary architecture and interior design studio, by building and development company Project Friday. Of their first meeting, Ben Robertson, Tecture founding director, says ‘it was clear this parent wanted to create a home that expressed her love for her three children and to provide sufficient space for them to be individuals, as well as great spaces that could be utilised as a family.’
This led them to design a layout that placed the master bedroom as both the spiritual and physical heart of the home, while the stairs, Ben says, were ‘positioned so as to encourage all the children to always walk past the centre’. The focus on family was also symbolised externally by a datum detail that ‘hugs’ the second floor of the building – this was introduced to ‘metaphorically express that the kids who occupy the first floor are always supported.’ says Ben. ‘This datum is continued in the outdoor alfresco – 4 beams replicating the 4 family members the house was built for.’
The site also greatly influenced the design – with the front of the site facing west, the architects chose to place as much of the building as possible toward the front of the block. This allowed space for a northern courtyard to introduce more natural light into the home, and enough room in the backyard for the children’s half-size basketball court. With North Caulfield being a mixture of mid-century, art deco and 1970’s ‘suburban’ architecture, alongside an increasing number of contemporary architectural homes, Ben says ‘the streetscape was such a hybrid of architecture, we chose to design a home that was contemporary to reflect the many new homes being built on the street, including opposite the site’.
The contemporary white facade is interrupted only by the detail of timber battens, which appear to enclose and protect the home while also warming and defining the thresholds. This minimalist exterior reflects Tecture’s focus on pure geometry and form as inspiration. ‘We believe that a sound rationale in form and simplicity is not only architecturally and aesthetically pleasing, but most often allows us to ensure we do not overcapitalise on the architecture, so we can create spaces that are equally as beautiful externally as they are on the inside’, says Ben. ‘Often, the most successful projects are those that celebrate the exterior and interior equally. As people, we often spend more time inside our dwellings than outside, so it is important that references to both crossover for a holistic design’.
This integration of architecture and interiors is clearly felt in the Concrete Conceal House; the restraint of the exterior elevations is reflected in the deliberately minimal palette of materials used internally. The project differed from Tecture’s signature calm monotone aesthetic in the use of multiple metal tones and, as Ben expresses it, ‘even colour in the girls’ ensuite’, however, ‘in principle, it follows the same ideology of most of our projects – structural simplicity, clean geometry, consistent lines and material restraint.’ The collection of brass, bronze and rose gold introduces a more feminine element, yet is grounded by the robust forms of cool concrete render and warm timber tones to contribute to a more urban and masculine aesthetic. ‘The materials become significant by use of repetition and scale’, says Ben, ‘a design methodology we often like to approach to our work for a more restrained aesthetic’.
For an interior grounded in minimalism and restraint, The Concrete Conceal House is not afraid to add soft luxurious elements through brass fittings, timber veneers, curved mirror details and bold metal fixtures. In each case, the approach is subtle, never tipping beyond a soft, welcoming atmosphere into something over the top. Bold and overscaled elements are introduced to ‘highlight depth, scale and alignment’, says Ben, In the kitchen, the monolithic stone island bench echoes the datum idea of the exterior in the form of a contrasting brass band and the stone kicker that extends from the kitchen and beyond. The soft grey stone is used again in a floating shelf in the living space, and echoed in the deeper stone used in the bathroom and concrete finishes.
Tecture’s strong architectural ideology gives the project a singular clarity that ensures the design’s minimalist sensibility feels natural, never didactic. With the Concrete Conceal House, the studio has created a minimalist home with heart – peaceful and elegant, while also deeply conscious and supportive of the family who inhabit the spaces.
Artworks: John Young – dining, Sculptures by Mark Galea, William Breen – bedroom, Catherine Woo – hall.
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