A garage is typically considered a purely utilitarian space, with little thought for the internal aesthetics, so it is rare to find a project like the elegant, batten-lined and softly lit garage by architect Angela Kent of Kenström.
The garage was designed for a family to accommodate the increasing number of cars as the children reached driving age, with no additional space on site for a larger garage, the solution was to locate it below ground. From the outset, the intention was for the design to be more than just a typical underground carpark – ‘The term “bat cave” was bandied about’, says Angela Kent, ‘together with a Pinterest image of a car showroom with an illuminated ceiling’.
Instead of going the highly reflective, glossy showroom route, the architect instead focused on creating a warm and calm atmosphere that would transition to the rich traditional detailing inside the house. In the past, Angela says she has used limewashed timber battens on black acoustic matting as a ceiling detail many times, softening hard surfaces. In the subterranean environment of the garage, however, there were concerns around using organic materials for fear of mould in a space deprived of natural light.
A solution was found in Japanese made Ever Art Wood® aluminium battens by Covet. With a photorealistic timber finish, the exterior grade battens not only gave the effect of timber without the potential issues of using natural wood, they are also dimensionally accurate, fire rated, lightweight and maintenance-free, making them ideal for the project.
‘The Covet aluminium battens looked to be a perfect substitute and were suggested early in the design process to form screened wall surfaces, leaving the ceiling as raw concrete’, says Angela. The design uses the Kabebari battens, unique for their two-part clip system which enables them to simply click together, screws hidden concealing the fixings. This enabled the installers to develop a good working rhythm when attaching them to the aluminium subframe.
Perhaps the most significant feature, however, was the fact that the Covet battens made the distinctive elegant curved walls possible, and the lightweight qualities of the aluminium also meant they could create totally concealed access doors. ‘Being able to clip the facing half of the batten off gives the ability to remove individual battens easily in case one should get damaged’, says Angela, ‘and in the case of concealed doorways, means that there is space for the hinge to rotate without binding’.
During the design process, Covet concrete overlay made its way in to replace large format tiles. The concrete overlay enabled the builders, Beebo Constructions Pty Ltd, to achieve a virtually join-free surface. A true portland cement-based concrete terrazzo overlay, it is manufactured in Melbourne using high-quality sands, aggregates and cement. Bespoke floors are supplied in 20kg pre-blended bags for site mixing and laying which offers a very high level of flexibility in construction, capable of being used in a garage basement or on the 43rd floor of an office tower.
Visually, Angela appreciated that it ‘also has a hint of softness in the way it is hand trowelled and low sheen’, she says. Combined, the battens and concrete create a subtle, elegant space that is nevertheless highly functional, durable and low maintenance. ‘Tonally, the light concrete floor surface ‘lifts’ the space without the distraction of many grouted joints’, says Angela, ‘and the walls add warmth to what is essentially a concrete shell.’
For Covet director Anthony Scott, the project was a showcase of how the technical advancements in the production of these materials is providing new opportunities for architects. ‘This project exhibited two very unique products that we are immensely proud of. Both items set new benchmarks in the market’, he says. Anthony cites the thin application of the concrete as something of which they are especially proud. ‘In our opinion, it is a technical feat – with only 12mm applied to the floor and then ground back to 10mm, it possesses remarkable strength and is a truly refined, custom concrete terrazzo floor.’ Seeing the products used in the garage project is an exciting moment for the company. ‘The garage space is breathtaking with the curved walls, hidden doors, well designed lighting and great attention to detail’, Anthony says. ‘It’s a pity its hidden away from public view!’.
The project was not without its challenges for the architect. In addition to the vastly more complex structural and civil engineering components, on a much greater scale to a regular residential project, another key challenge, Angela says, was that it is also ‘unusual to have such a large space with no natural light – to design in a way that does not feel too commercial’. The choice of lighting was, therefore, highly significant. ‘J’ovica Sredojevic from Light Practice assisted with the lighting design and selection of the Prolicht ‘Glorious’ ceiling fittings’, says Angela.
The LED strip lights behind the wall battens at the skirting and cornice levels had been in the design from the beginning, and small vertical marker strips are used to delineate the parking bays for 5 cars. The lighting design ensures highlights the curved walls and lines of the battens, while creating a luxurious calming, rather than industrial, atmosphere.
With its striking batten-lined walls and smooth concrete surfaces offset by beautiful lighting, the garage is a triumph of considered simplicity and materials. The project highlights how technological advances are enabling the development of sophisticated products like the Covet aluminium battens and concrete overlay, in turn creating opportunities and new possibilities for architects and designers.