Melissa Bright, director of MAKE Architecture, once told us that the industry should build less, but ensure that the projects that do get developed are of a higher quality so they last for longer.

Local House, an extension to a St Kilda Californian Bungalow in Melbourne by MAKE, doesn’t deviate from that sustainability ethos. Inspired by how its owners live and enjoy life, the home is conceived more like a favourite local café than a house, and sustainability is addressed with small but playful and efficiently designed spaces built to last.

The project, entered into the 2015 Australian Institute of Architects’ VIC Architecture Awards, is marked by a prominent gable-like element to the rear of the building. Here, a heavy base made of off-form concrete – expressed internally and externally – doubles up as integrated seats, benches and durable surfaces for the family, and acts as the launching board for large board marked concrete elements to be lifted up and out.

According to MAKE, the concrete has been formed up insitu using recycled fence palings to give texture and grain. Other recycled materials from the demolition used during construction include the timber and bricks.












Floating above this base is a contrasting decorative timber screen, which fronts the extruded upper gable roof form containing the main bedroom. Designed to mediate the sun and control overlooking, the angled panels also create visual connections from within to the rooftops beyond.

^ "The design promotes occupant operability as opposed to mechanical conditioning with motorised external blinds that can be repositioned according to the direction of the sun,” the architects say. “High level louvers and operable skylights release the heat in summer, in winter the louvers can direct heat into the upper level bedroom.”

This new volume is shifted to the side boundary, which opened up the living spaces to the sun, and forged links between the kitchen and dining areas to the rear garden.

With an eye on social sustainability – the cherry on top to the focus on basic passive solar design principles – the architects explored how to make the extension cleverly and positively contribute to the community. One of the ways in which this was achieved was designing the rear of the house as another ‘front’, with a flexible studio garage an important part of the project.

“Viewed from the house and providing an opportunity to connect with the laneway it needed to be elevated beyond the typical garage response,” MAKE explains in its awards entry.

Rather than turning its back on the backstreet, the studio features an operable window, desk and small porch that together, create a frontage that resembles a shopfront more than a garage. This adaptable space features a ‘loose fit’ type of sustainability, and can work as a teenage retreat, home office, granny flat or a guest room. A separate entry from the backstreet also allows the studio to operate as a separate commercial or residential rental in the future.

^Connections between the private and public are reinforced with bluestone pavers that match the bluestone cobbles in the laneway.

“The rear of the house and studio actively engage with the lane as a valued street address. We hope this positive ethos contributes to a socially sustainable community, knowing that ultimately this will help this house and suburb be a happy place to live,” says MAKE.

Photography by Peter Bennetts

Project details

Project team: Melissa Bright, Bruce Rowe, Robert McIntyre, Emily Watson, Todd de Hoog, Gillian Hatch

Builder: 4AD Construction

Structural consultant: HIVE Engineering

Landscape consultant: Marion Bonadeo

Cost consultant: Z.N.T Partnership

Building surveyor: Inline Building Surveyor