Oak House by Kennedy Nolan - A Life in Colour
The Fisher & Paykel Series
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Photography Derek Swalwell
Video Kintaro Studios
Words Rose Onans

The Local Project presents, in collaboration with Fisher & Paykel, an exploration of the Oak House by Kennedy Nolan, a project that represents formal and visual innovation in a new vein of work for the practice.

As an alteration and addition to a Victorian house in inner Melbourne, Patrick Kennedy describes the project as, “in lots of senses, a really conventional brief for an architect.” He goes on to explain, however, that the aspects which make the Oak House visually and programmatically unique stem from the clients, “really warm, hospitable people,” and the physical characteristics of the site, which is dominated by a vast oak tree that lends the project its name.

Rachel Nolan reflects that the tree is “always present”, especially when sitting low in the living space surrounded by garden “you actually have these opportunities to look up, and enjoy that tree,” or when in the back yard where one experiences a sense of the dappled light through the tree canopy. A courtyard animates both the front and the rear of the house, developed in response to the design imperative to make the new addition complementary while ensuring the front remained relevant.

For the architects, in terms of Kennedy Nolan’s principles, the project “was about a process of abstraction and a way of managing ornament, which pulls the whole building visually into a single object. And this one draws on some old things we’ve done but there are some really new things about this house, which I think you can see in the saturation of the texture and materiality and colour,” Patrick says. Key to achieving this level of innovation was a supportive client. “The fact that they trusted us to do that make for a really special relationship, they weren’t prescriptive and they were really happy for us to be innovative,” Rachel explains.

Ultimately, the design is centred around the kitchen, reflecting the “overwhelming hospitality” of the clients. Kennedy Nolan’s aspiration for “very high quality, ergonomic design” in the kitchen was amplified in this project by the clients’ desire to “bring that into a wider operation of their house and use it to interact with the outside world,” says Patrick. Based on this, the architects explain that “for us, it really makes sense to work with Fisher & Paykel.”

Fisher & Paykel’s Dan Varcoe recognised that the new black freestanding range would complement Kennedy Nolan’s design of the kitchen. Rachel expresses that “we know how interested Fisher & Paykel are in really making connections with designers and how much they care about investigating and implementing good design in their product.” She continues, “it was easy, very easy to work with them, and know the design’s a really high priority for them, it was pretty much a no brainer.”

By focusing on strong graphic elements that complement the existing architecture while imbuing it with a sense of playfulness and hospitality, Kennedy Nolan has created a reflection of the clients’ character throughout the design. In doing so, the project resists typified architectural responses and achieves an exceptional level of innovation.

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