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    “Squeezed and defensive”: The contextual tension of Somme townhouses

    Edithvale VIC

    From the architect:

    This development of two townhouses sits on a quiet cul-de-sac at one end and a beach on the other. Given the site’s contextual tension between urbanism and landscape, the design is squeezed and defensive-looking at one end, and at the other end expands while the massing breaks down toward nature. As a response to the harsh environment at the site, the material palette works on the premise of 'tough on the outside, soft on the inside’; external materials are raw, robust and no maintenance, while the interior is soft on the eye and to the touch.

    The location of this project experiences the extremes of weather – wild winds [carry] salt and sand to every corner of the property. The external materials therefore needed to be researched and selected with their longevity and maintenance requirements in mind.

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    The exterior materials are robust in response to the sea’s destructive power and mixed in response to the assorted housing styles of the neighbourhood. The exterior materials are mainly untreated and have a long lifecycle with little to no maintenance. The dwellings incorporate [various] materials and textures to break down the scale and reduce visual bulk. Cladding materials include Corten steel [with] a rusted finish, effectively beating the sea to the punch line.

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    Also included are recycled timber [and] plastic boards, mimicking the weatherboards in the area but in a contemporary recycled material that does not deteriorate for a long time. Textured white Japanese ceramic tiles represent the theme of white brick in the area, while Colorbond steel cladding fits with the vernacular. Painted render is used as small infill nothingness, letting the bold materials do the work. This variety of materials, together with contrasting dark window frames creates visual delight.

    The building sits low on the land, protecting the lower level with the foreshore scrub while the upper level sits just over the foreshore planting for endless views.

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    The dwellings are set out so that the entry axis of each space has a direct line of site to the landscape beyond. The beach can be seen from the letterbox, interior courtyard from the bedroom entry; the kitchen counter seating looks directly up to the sky and so on. We aim to connect with nature and create a larger sense of space than the site would suggest is possible. 

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    Given the necessary visual connection to the foreshore and longitudinal squeeze of the site, planning for north-facing living space was not achievable. Skylights have been incorporated to bring more light to the centre of the dwellings main living spaces.

    The internal spaces are not vast, but the raked ceilings create a grand sense of space in the upper living area. The master suite [has been made] more intimate [as the result of] a split level, which also creates the opportunity to look over the kitchen to the water. The ensuite is the centrepiece of the house with its massive scale, open shower, heated floors, beautiful materials, massive skylight and planting.

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    These houses are designed to embrace the harsh but beautiful location and allow the occupant to be completely immersed in all that surrounds [them].

    Key Info

    Architect: Jarchitecture

    Project Size: 580sqm

    Site Size: 574sqm

    Completed: 2017

    Photography: Alex Reinders

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