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In August, when Domain published the story and photographs of a mansion in Melbourne’s Toorak that had a 12-seat theatre and a showroom-worthy garage based on a version of a Batman’s Batcave under the tennis court, the story went around the world and locally caused a tsunami of envy.
Tennis types wanted one the same. So did car collectors. Even women saw it as a super-sexy bunker.
The tale of the comprehensive transformation of the 1920s mansion’s decor by Molecule Architecture, and of its invention of a subterranean facility that becomes accessible when the baseline of the tennis court is lifted on hydraulic props to reveal the tunnel entrance to a multi-car garage, was reproduced in all manner of media.
It was an instance of amazing design that just had to be seen to be believed.
A sweetly restored worker’s cottage
The antithesis of “look at me” contemporary architecture is what Hugh Campbell set out to achieve in his low-key renovation of the six-metre-wide weatherboard he shares with his partner in a Victorian streetscape in the inner Sydney suburb of Alexandria.
“The whole idea of the place was not to be iconic,” he said. “In that mixed and primarily single-storey environment, I tried not to have it shout ‘I’m brand new!’ The idea was to fit it in so that people could walk past and not even notice it”.
With dormer windows in the roof, an “amusing” picket fence and shutters for privacy on the front windows, the humble yet charming house puts out “all the traditional cues” and thereby fits right in.
A big ask, architecturally
How to please a wife who loves Californian modernism and a husband who seriously loves concrete?
In a wide, woody, stone, glass and concrete house in bayside Hampton, in Melbourne, where the upper-level living floor sits in a dramatically cantilevered box presented as a deep, in-sloping concrete frame, Melbourne architect Matt Gibson went via Brazil for the solution.
His stylistic resolution was based in the Brazilian take on mid-century design, particularly that exemplified by Oscar Niemeyer who, as well as working in concrete, injected playfulness into the modernist rhetoric.
Gibson is reasonably sure he gave the owners what they wanted: an iconic four-bedroom home that is “neither monolithic nor generic”.
Casual comfort at the Cape
Suitable human habitat within natural clearings in a dense rainforest block on Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland means you want a place that’s as casual as a campsite, as practical as a permanent home and as easy to live in as bare feet.
A series of three pavilions were strung through the Cape Tribulation rainforest connected by boardwalks.Photo: Peter Bennetts
Brisbane’s M3Architects did all that by stringing a long and centrally “cranked” series of three pavilions through the trees as a zig-zag structure. Connected by boardwalks, the central deck is covered but open-sided. The utility wing, with its living/dining/kitchen facilities, has a skirting of upholstered seating that can – and often does – sleep eight extra guests.
Ben Vielle explained that a rigorous reading of the site’s attributes before ground was broken allowed the architects “to defer to how the site naturally wanted to be”.
And that was “an incredibly calm and relaxed forest enclave”.
Icon on the Indian Ocean
Thematic architecture is a hard genre to get right but in a house on the West Australian coast, 15 kilometres south of Fremantle, and in two-tone glazed brickwork and big timber, Bosske Architecture has installed the new local landmark.
Omeo House is shaped with curves to evoke the idea of a heavy boat and below those, the heavy timbers of vertical teak suggest the piles of a pier. “Everyone has an opinion about it,” says Bosske’s Caroline Hickey. “But we’re happy with that. If it gets people talking, that’s a good thing.
“People take photos of themselves with the house and at sunset, the bricks reflect the setting sun, which makes the house look like it’s on fire.”
An enduring palette of charcoal and rust
Shaped as two pavilions that shelter a central deck and splay towards the views from its Palm Beach perch, this three-bedroom house by Casey Brown Architecture has the most novel combination of surfaces.
Needing “a remarkable durability” in the setting, Rob Brown clad the lower sections in rusting – or Corten – steel, that gets harder and more ochred with time, and for an encore charred the upper section’s timbers to charcoal. Real charcoal, not a paint effect.
The traditional Japanese wood-seasoning technique of Yaki Sugi has given a Japanese style structural arrangement a top coat he calls “crocodile skin”.
This article originally appeared on Domain.com.au