A Discrete, Layered Entity – Hampden Road House by Archier
Hobart, TAS, Australia
The glazed dark pavilion, resting behind an 1850s former dairy in Battery Point, reflects intermingled glimpses of sky, foliage and the adjacent heritage houses. Just as the building is at once exceedingly simple yet also seems to contain the multitudes of its surrounds, Archier’s Hampden Road House finds a timeless elegance in synthesising an array of requirements and ambitions.
In contrast to the frank façade of the original brick cottage that addresses the street, the new rear pavilion is a discreet, layered entity that coalesces around a central landscaped courtyard. This apparent contrast, however, belies the sensitivity of the architecture to the heritage context, with the new pavilion referencing the traditional arrangement of secondary outbuildings on site and the landscaped courtyard recalling the ‘house garden’ typology historically found in the area.
Hampden Road is the main street of Battery Point, which, dating back to the early 19th century, is one of Hobart’s, and indeed Australia’s, oldest enclaves. Characterised by double-fronted, tidy Georgian-style cottages and grander, picturesque sandstone buildings, careful heritage protection has preserved much of the area’s colonial character. The cottage had previously been a milk depo, and Archier Director Chris Gilbert explains that the site was unique in having dual driveways, one down either boundary and in the fact that it was one of the few lots in Battery Point that had not
“There were a number of outbuildings, a garage that had been used as the cart storage and a couple of other smaller structures out the back,” he says. “Our floorplan splits the program across the site, almost mimicking the idea of a collection of outbuildings [behind the main house], and, in doing so, preserves a rare example of an original title.” Utilising the site in this way also meant that the new addition could be kept to a single level, subservient to the original cottage it is almost entirely hidden behind.
The clients had a legacy of previous architectural projects behind them and were seeking in the new home a place that would fulfil their needs in retirement. As two very independent people transitioning from working and raising their family into a new phase of life, Chris says “they wanted a house with visual connections throughout so they could each know the other is present, but they also need their own spaces, so the plan offers plenty of nooks and defined space for their respective interests.”
Fundamentally, Hampden Road House addresses the question of “how do you retire together? What does that space look like? It’s a very different house to a family home and revolves around two agents needing to have some sort of independence in a single dwelling,” Chris says. Balancing privacy and connection, intimacy and separation, “a lot of those conversations led to the idea of a veil that would sit between you and the other party,” he recalls. “That progressed to the envelope of the building becoming a layered veil that added depth to views, which are filtered through glass, across the landscaped courtyard and back into home.”
Responding to these considerations, the arrangement of the new addition around the central courtyard became a key move, allowing for filtered visual connections between different spaces while also offering functional, separate spaces. A music room for the client’s piano, a luxurious master bedroom and ensuite, a kitchen and dining space designed for entertaining, and a comfortable lounge – all converge in the garden, which becomes simultaneously a liminal space and its own sheltered and private ‘outdoor room’ in its own right.
The concept of a ‘layered façade’ is integral to the courtyard’s role as an element of both connection and separation. The perimeter of the new pavilion is continuously walled with glass and, set immediately within this perimeter, structural blade walls add another stratum that creates privacy and places for the clients to display their art collection. Loosely draped curtains add a contrastingly soft and semi-translucent layer, but the fourth, and final, layer of the veil comes in the form of the reflection in the exterior glass. While intangible, the reflection is subtle yet powerful, both amplifying the experience of the garden and subtly directing awareness to the heritage buildings that surround the site.
“From a heritage perspective, even though it is a very modern building, the reflections of the historic neighbouring buildings really helped this new piece of architecture settle into this heritage context,” Chris explains. Furthermore, because the viewer becomes a part of that reflection, “you’re in that context; there’s a layering of the body through these different environments. With the reflection there’s a lot of movement in the house – as you move through it you see yourself moving, which gives it a very lived-in feeling,” he explains.
The nature of glass as both a reflective and transparent material serves to unite the new dark pavilion and the original white cottage. Entering through the cottage, which was preserved intact (the addition of a new bathroom concealed behind a hidden door to maintain the integrity of the original hallway), a direct line of sight is established to the courtyard beyond. With the light at the end of the corridor acting as the beacon that draws one in, entry to the new pavilion is via a glazed link.
Emphasising the separation between the old and the new, this glass transitional space offers a view of the rear brick wall of the cottage and to the garden on both sides, while the dark timber suspended batten ceiling marks the move into the new section of the building. The dark palette is both accentuated and balanced by the transparency of the glass perimeter. In the warmer months, the building invites the inhabitants to spend time outdoors in the courtyard garden, while in winter, the dark interior has a comforting warmth.
The robust materiality of the new pavilion, with its use of concrete, glass, steel, marble and timber, while unmistakably modernist in application, gestures to the nature of the surrounding brick and stone 130-year-old buildings. “Even though it is a slight step sideways, it is still within that idea of building for the next generation, of building something that will still be there for the next 100 years,” Chris says.
Driven by this ambition to look beyond trends and the present moment to something more lasting, the project integrates the responses to both the clients’ brief and heritage context. The result is a sense of natural order and simplicity that will remain relevant and vital far into the future.