Tower House

Austin Maynard Architects

Tower House is the renovation and extension of a weatherboard bungalow, located in a suburb close to parkland and the Yarra River, in Melbourne, Australia. A large, aggressive piece of contemporary architecture would have been an imposition in this context. The architects’ proposition was to create a series of small structures of a scale and texture that did not dominate.

Large homes are an environmental disaster for our cities, while also being a cultural/social disaster for our communities. Australian homes are among the largest in the world and building large and cheaply is increasingly becoming the norm. Tower House is anti-monolith. It is a village externally and a home internally. The house defies logic as the exterior appears to be a series of small structures, while internally the spaces and functions are large and connected.

Cavity sliders and other hidden doors and panels open or close off different rooms for privacy, warmth and cross-ventilation. Where the segments meet, the exterior shell is expressed in various ways giving the impression of the house as a single, cohesive structure. In some places, such as the threshold between the tower and the living spaces, where garden plants grow on both sides of the glass, it is not always clear whether you are inside or out.

The ‘village’, massed along the southern boundary to maximise sunlight, comprises two kids’ rooms; a bathroom and living spaces in the original house; a library/study, main bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining in the new part of the house; and a kid’s study with loft net contained within the tallest tower at the front of the house.

Timber shingles (western red cedar) are used externally and selectively internally, to enhance the quality of the build, to provide warmth and texture, and to create an atmosphere of tactile beauty. Materials such as the timber shingles, net floor and industrial fibreglass grating are atypical of residential architecture, but suit the experimental nature of Tower House perfectly.

Lighting: Coco Flip. Finishes: Ceramica Vogue (Classic Ceramics), Dulux, Lysaght. Fittings & Fixtures: Qasair, Abey, Franke, Rogerseller.

Photography: Peter Bennetts, Tess Kelly