There’s no denying that the curvilinear form of the True North house in Kensington is unique. And as much as it was the product of project architect and client being on the same page – namely because they were one and the same person – its tapered, triangular footprint also seemed a natural response to the awkwardly-shaped block it sat on.
To Tim Hill of Melbourne’s TANDEM studio, the Kensington site – located along a disused lane on an oddly-shaped block that had kept its heritage-listed stables from the 1880s – the inherent challenges of the build were nothing but licence to innovate.
The resulting build is a perfect example of form meets context. Hill’s curvilinear, three-bedroom home is a triangular yet rounded construction of corrugated metal cladding. Although the façade – a custom-made zig-zag of folded metal – draws upon the themes of suburban Australiana, the building itself is a high-performance, 7.3-star house that cleverly responds to the needs of both client and site.
Inside, the house is split into two levels: the lower for living, the upper for sleeping. Upstairs, the bedrooms and the bathrooms are sectioned off into three distinct ‘pods’, which are accessed by a staircase and bridge that hover over the central, double-heighted atrium. Low-height walls – created from reclaimed brick – are scattered throughout the interior, connecting the building to the heritage-listed brick stables of its past.
The double brick stables still sit at the rear of the block, but were in need of some structural maintenance after over a century of existence. Restoration was undertaken as part of TANDEM’s new build, with a stabilising cross-braced internal timber structure added to re-invent the stables as a one-bedroom townhouse.
The star of the show is the metal-clad façade. Tim Hill designed the triangular footprint in part as a response to the oddly-shaped block, but also to function as a high-performing geometry in its own right. Although the shape of the house is triangular, each of its points is curved, creating “a language of soft, curving elements that extend and enfold space in and around the building”.
The folded metal plate is made of a continuous, curving pleat that is pinned together over the front door. The pleats are punctured by rust-look metal hoods that frame the windows, and jut out over the upper levels to form views of the neighbourhood.
On the ground level, the curved façade adds to the thermal performance of the building by capturing still air. The bends also create north-facing produce gardens around the boundaries, as well as a rear produce garden.