Jonathan Wherret (Black and white images only)
It has been previously noted that Hobart is a small city in a large landscape. This beauteous mountainous isle is justly renowned. But the most southern capital city in Australia is nonetheless beset by the perennial problem of an ever-expanding edge.
New homes in new suburbs are being built up and down the river further entrenching car-dependency. The lighthouse by room11 architects is a carefully considered consolidation project which demonstrates the potential for beautiful bespoke building which offer an alternative to the unchecked suburban hemorrhage.
The client came to our office with a proposal to deliberately downsize. Selling a large family house to finance construction, they wanted a smaller simpler inner-city home. A double lot owned by a family member was identified as a suitable site. In an older area with a convivial community and suitable services the lot was within walking distance everything. An existing single storey house on the property built to address the street was to remain. As one of the last unbuilt spaces, the site was indeed constrained with reactive soils and surrounded by heritage buildings.
All these things led logically to the adoption of a courtyard arrangement. A perimeter strategy of high walls defines a rectangle within which the house is positioned. A generous courtyard to the north offers space for outdoor living whilst a smaller court to the south hosts a productive garden.
An elegantly spare kitchen sits on the short wall of the living room. To the northern edge, sliding glass screens open, enabling the the space as experienced to extend up and over screening courtyard walls to the forested ridge which rises beyond.
The home is passively heated and ventilated with openings and orientation sensibly deployed. A free-standing wood fire provides winter warming and a ceremonial hearth. Bedrooms and bathroom are organised perpendicularly to the main space. Skylit and intensely private, these rooms are modest in scale and furnishings.
The house has a subdued vocabulary with pale cement sheet cladding, white gravel and unpainted cement block walls. Timber window reveals and wooden doors are meticulously detailed. Those parts of the house which are touched offer a rich haptic experience. The crunch of gravel and the texture and scent of timber enliven the formal simplicity of the architecture.
A vegetable garden has been established in the space between the existing heritage house and the new dwelling. Like a carefully kept secret the home is virtually unknowable from the street. The scale and tactics of the building are polite and respectful to neighbours.
Our office is a short walk from the Lighthouse and we often see our client out walking in the late afternoon sun. With a smile on her face she tells us that her house makes her happy every day. This in turn makes us extremely glad.