The Creative Power of Constraint - Silhouette Hytte House by FIGR Architects
Project Feature
Elwood, VIC, Australia

Words Rose Onans
Photography Tom Blachford
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Nestled among the quiet streets of the bayside Melbourne suburb of Elwood, the Silhouette Hytte House by FIGR Architects overcomes a number of challenging site conditions to create a considered design response to the clients’ brief and a playful and updated reference to the existing architectural vernacular.

An extremely long, narrow site with a heritage and flood overlay as well as close proximity to neighbouring trees all informed and created challenges for the design. FIGR Architects wanted the proposition to be modest and respectful of its context, so they looked to the surrounding architectural vernacular for inspiration. The pitched roof creates a familiar form within this neighbourhood context, albeit with an updated, contemporary profile.

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The dining space is set within the garden by way of a box-like structure that is inserted into the building, extending the envelope.
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Silvertop ash shiplap timber warms the interior, while the pitched roof creates volume and enhances a sense of space.

The design takes a pared-back approach, stripping the structure of all unnecessary adornment, instead relying on a simple extrusion of the building’s silhouette. Materiality delineates the form of the east-facing elevation with a combination of silvertop ash shiplap cladding and standing seam metal cladding. Meanwhile, the extrusion is reduced to its simplest form, devoid of eaves or decoration to create a clean geometric structure.

In this way, the design achieves a clarity of form and intent that emphasises the strong geometry of the adjacent heritage architecture while imbuing the new addition with a clearly contemporary minimalism. The fold in the rear elevation negotiates proximity to the neighbouring trees and creates a more dynamic experience of the rear facade as the building changes proportion and appearance from different vantage points.

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The fold in the rear elevation negotiates the proximity to the neighbouring tree canopy.
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The simple pitched roof is also key to achieving the programmatic brief that called for three bedrooms and two bathrooms with open-plan kitchen, living, study and dining space on the small 210m2 site. The pitch of the roof lends volume to the interior which enhances a sense of space, while strategic subtractions in the envelope of the home create openings to light and programme amenity.

A simple yet warm internal material palette continues the use of silvertop ash, the warmth of the timber lending the otherwise-minimalist interior a sense of approachability while defining zones within the open-plan space. A box-form insertion into the building envelope allows an expansion of the dining area, which is lined with timber to create a light-filled dining space that is set within the garden. Moving into the bathroom, timber is combined with terrazzo, stone vanity-tops and rectilinear tiles to create a more complex, layered materiality that is complementary to the simplicity of the larger spaces in the home.

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The bathroom is a space of more complex, layered materiality that is a complement to the pared-back interior.
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The Silhouette Hytte House is an exemplar of the creative power of constraints. Here, the numerous challenges of the site have been interpreted creatively, undoubtedly leading to a more refined, considered and developed design response. The result is a clean and minimalist yet character-filled contemporary home that is respectful and responsive to the neighbourhood’s rich heritage context.

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Published 17 June, 2019
Photography  Tom Blachford
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