It sounds contradictory to call a building made from 260 tons of granite ‘light’, but that’s nonetheless the defining quality of Melbourne’s Armadale Residence.
It is exactly this contradiction between materiality and structure that B.E. Architecture was aiming for when they embarked on the project. The building is hard and rectilinear in form, but the façade has been punctuated with airy openings and its granite shell textured in a way that refracts the sun softly over its surface.
In the words of the project team, “the natural texture and irregularity of the split-faced material blurs the hard lines of the stacked rectilinear building. While the building is strong, it sits quietly in its surroundings.”
Between the external and internal realms, a total of three types of granite have been used in the creation of Armadale Residence – but all to different effect. While the exterior shell is rough and tactile, the architectural detail of the interior spaces remains smooth and even throughout.
“In order for this to work, the architectural detailing was integrated with fine craftsmanship by the builders and stonemasons,” says B.E. Architecture. “Working together, we were able to create subtle variation in the materials and intricate details where slight change finish makes the same material fit for different function or application. In a few places, this required thinking of atypical applications for the stone working with suppliers to push custom fabrications to add to the overall unification, especially in the master ensuite where a custom bath and basin [were] engineered from solid blocks of stone.
“While there is permanence to the structure, the internal spaces are light and open, particularly in the living area where the fully retractable glazed doors open onto the adjacent courtyard.”
As far as configuration goes, the objective was quite simply to create a home that responded to the needs of a downsizing couple, while still accommodating their visiting adult children. A series of “focused” spaces – such as a shared study, “extra-large” ensuite, and a secluded Japanese garden that comes complete with a private outdoor shower – balance the required functionality of an empty nesting couple with details that are unexpected within an urban context.
Features such as the Japanese garden exemplify the integrated approach that B.E. Architecture took to landscape and built elements. The client couple expressed a desire to have “diverse planted outlooks and terraces” that required low levels of maintenance (hence the decision not to include a full lawn). Much of the landscape architecture surrounding Armadale Residence has been designed for an aesthetic response. Capitalising on this, the kitchen and other living spaces all offer direct sightlines to outdoor sightlines to flora.