The clients wanted their new home to capture something of the wistful adage “a man’s home is his castle”. On a tight budget, within a restricted, urban site they commissioned a refuge; a stronghold of family life and quiet living. Though the existing building on site was approved for demolition, the block was nestled in along a street largely Victorian in character. ‘Addressing the street’ was crucial, the new home needed to acknowledge and respond sympathetically to its surrounds yet be distinctly recognisable as a modern addition to the streetscape. The house takes its design cues from its neighbours, respecting scale and set back, height and form yet avoiding senseless mimicry. Instead, the building reinterprets Victorian ideas like the ‘bay’ windows at the front of the property, translating them for contemporary modes of living, construction and materials.
The tight budget and a brief which necessitated robust materials and a “build once and once only” approach, stimulated a rich dialogue between the clients, architects and builder. What resulted was the creative use of strong, inexpensive materials and simple yet elegant construction details, which give this home its unique character and aesthetic. Nothing here is ‘fat’ or decoration, every decision was deliberate, every feature needing to perform with efficiency to synthesise financial, spatial, environmental and conceptual demands. The raw blockwork of the blade boundary walls embody this efficiency, allowing for fast, simple construction processes and eliminating dependence on expensive linings and applied finishes requiring ongoing maintenance. At a conceptual level the blocks allude to castle-like shelter in their scale and mass and work alongside the balanced palette of warm and cool materials to achieve what the client celebrates as the building’s “monastic qualities”, which lend to the home a sense of peace and stillness.
The spaces, like the materials in this home also operate dynamically. Here, the laundry doubles as a wet-room, the over-sized corridor upstairs as a play-space and the deep windowsills as seats. In the children’s bedroom a wall slides away to reconfigure play and sleep spaces, whilst at the rear the whole house opens to spill out into the yard. The close dialogue between materiality and spatial design allows the building to passively regulate its internal temperature. The protected thermal mass of the deep, insulated blockwork walls trap the warmth indoors during winter and absorb the heat of the sun in summer, whilst a proliferation of doors and windows open to catch breezes and promote cross-ventilation. A series of saw-toothed rooves and carefully placed windows puncture the building’s thick, protective skin and draw light deep into the internal spaces of the home. Above the dining area hangs a double-height void that celebrates the nostalgic idea of the kitchen as the hearth, the heart of a home. Beneath the void the family gathers, the giant dog curled-up on the rug, the adults in the kitchen, and the little boy zooming around on his trike on the polished concrete floors.Carter Williamson Architects Project name: Camperdown House