From the outside, Northcote Mohawk looks less like a haircut than a fun park – but you can see where the association comes from.
The single dwelling, tucked into a residential pocket of Melbourne’s inner north, appears as a fully formed and delightfully unusual concept from the outside. The shape-shifting structure is a surprise in itself, but what is most surprising is that the project is actually the replacement of a typical Californian bungalow.
Statkus Architecture was approached by the clients in 2013, who asked them to design and procure a residential extension and renovation to their dilapidated home. The existing bungalow had already been subject to a number of renovations, but, in the words of the architect, these had been “rough-and-ready” and had comprised “cheap and nasty aluminium-framed windows, aluminium external cladding, and a ‘re-stump’ utilising an old tractor tyre [to support] some of the bearers”. The inevitable consequence was that the formerly charming structure had lost much of its allure.
After surveying the extent of the repairs and maintenance required, Statkus Architecture came to the conclusion that an entirely new build would be just as cost-effective as the renovation and extension that was their original brief. On a practical level, a new build would allow the architects to reconfigure street setbacks and move the front entrance to the side of the house; on an aesthetic level, it would open up the possibility of an entirely new concept.
Northcote Mohawk is nothing if not conceptual. No doubt named for the irregularly sloping roof that transitions from single-storey at the rear to double-storey at the front, the new build plays with perception, offering “differing visual experiences depending on the direction of travel”. From the back garden, for instance, the façade seems to wrap around the lawn like the bow of a boat; an illusion that is reinforced through the wide decking and the canvas sails that float over the lounging area. From the front and side of the building, the mohawk reference is made apparent through the atypical roof shape, while a spiralling, fenced-in stair recalls the controlled chaos of a funhouse slide.
“Each morning, many people travel past in cars, buses, trucks, bikes and on foot on the way to work and school, the cycle being repeating in reverse each afternoon and evening. We were interested in how a new building on this site could be experienced by these passers-by and also how the house could potentially offer differing visual experiences depending on the direction of travel,” explains the architect.
“This led to an interest in how perspective could be utilised to give the appearance of a larger, more flamboyant building from one direction, resulting in an exaggerated perspective; and when viewed from the opposite direction, how a flattened perspective could result in an apparently more subdued building form.”