James Hardie Australia collaborated with Nathanael Preston and Daniel Lane of Preston Lane Architects to explore the possibilities for the facade of an Edwardian single fronted terrace addition using a new innovation in building materials: Hardie Fine Texture Cladding and its supporting range of corner and junction accessories.

Preston Lane’s ideas come to life with Zig-Zag House, a conceptual two-storey extension of the Edwardian terrace in inner-city Melbourne, creating an unexpected scene in a Melbourne laneway. The terrace is a typical long narrow site, running east to west, with a laneway along its northern edge. Preston Lane balanced opportunities to utilise the lane’s northern light while ensuring privacy for the occupants.

“The experimental nature of this collaboration prompted us to think about Hardie Fine Texture Cladding differently,” Preston explains. “What we discovered is that the lightweight, user-friendly panels can be used to create some new and really interesting concepts.”

Using 600mm wide Hardie Fine Texture Cladding panels arranged at 90 degrees with internal and external corner junctions, Preston Lane created the concertina facade concept. “The beauty of this process is in its simplicity,” explains Preston. “It looks a bit complex, but it’s actually very standard. All of those angles are 90 degrees, using the new Hardie 9mm Aluminium External Slimline Corner.”

“We thought a flat facade could look austere," says Lane. "But with the fine texture finish and this folding form, it appears dynamic and captures great shadows as the sun moves across it.” Elegantly framed by a custom ridge cap, the folding façade incorporates an integrated glazing unit that would frame views of the neighbourhood. Having a textured façade work for Zig-Zag House is made possible because Hardie Fine Texture Cladding panels are pre-sealed, pre-textured fibre cement panels, which can be fixed and painted.

Adding further visual elements to the design are subtle V-grooves, formed by the interconnecting shiplaps on the long edges of each 8.5-millimetre-thick panel. These shiplap joints enable a clean look and versatile implementation.

Although attracting attention from the rear laneway, the concertina façade also offers privacy – a second storey bedroom overlooks the lane but is obscured from view by the dynamic, zig-zagging wall, which creates pockets of light and shadow across the building. When viewed from the laneway, the second storey seems to hover overhead like an abstract cloud.

The rhythm of the second storey wall continues into the courtyard through a glass wall of the same shape. The glass then merges into the courtyard garden, where concertina folds of Hardie Fine Texture Cladding are painted grey, distinguishing them from the upper storey and providing a luminous backdrop. The fine render surface of the exterior cladding, along with the lines of the concertina and the shadows cast within it, contribute to the chorus of urban textures; corrugated fencing, laneway cobblestones, red brick walls and meandering vines. A scene humming with contemporary energy.

Capturing a view of the garden and courtyard, the ground floor study is positioned beside the glazed section of the concertina envelope. “Given the recent experience of lockdown, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales. we wanted to integrate a study that would have a view out and be a space that everyone would want to work from,” Lane says. “Study spaces like these have become critical to ensuring we can successfully work from home.”

“For us, good design means being comfortable inside but also being aware of the sky and the landscape around you while feeling that you are part of a community,” Preston explains. With its eye-catching form, Zig-Zag House encourages chance interaction between home and passersby.

“We wanted to open the living spaces up to the street while balancing privacy with the opportunity for outlook,” Preston says. “We think it would be fun to interact with the zig-zagging edges of this form, to be under it and next to it. For those walking past, the experience of the architecture changes with the approach and the journey beyond the house.”

Preston Lane’s design demonstrates that distinctive forms can be both affordable and achievable with Hardie Fine Texture Cladding and the versatility of the product means there are no limits to the formal expression of the envelope.