This hybrid multi-residential building on Kooyong Road in Armadale, Melbourne is a row of six townhouses with a common basement car park. However, its street presentation is informed by the singular expression of the mansion block, or perhaps a single dwelling. Armadale is characterised by large, detached family houses with heritage styles and well-established street trees and gardens. Kennedy Nolan’s aspiration was a sophisticated response to this privileged environment, integrating a higher residential density sensitively and unobtrusively.
The brief was to replace a detached interwar clinker-brick house with six three-level townhouses. There is strong demand in Armadale from ‘down-sizers’ – people who want to remain in their community but in a smaller house, with a smaller garden. The townhouse typology facilitates this step while retaining enough rooms of sufficient scale to accommodate existing furniture, and critically, access to a garden without an excessive burden of maintenance. The challenge was to integrate higher density into the neighbourhood sensitively – to privilege garden, to manage scale and proportion, and to explore a materiality that speaks to the context but is also genuine and expressive of contemporary life.
The mansion-block approach breaks down the potentially oppressive impression of cookie-cutter row housing and instead gives the sense of being in a more substantial single building. The first dwelling facing the street presents a ‘principal facade’, obscuring the existence of five dwellings beyond and maintaining the dominant rhythm of single detached dwellings. Entry to the five dwellings beyond is via a wide garden path, with the design of the final dwelling altered to provide a sense of enclosure to this garden and a well-composed facade to terminate the axis.
The architectural expression draws on the Arts and Crafts traditions visible in the neighbourhood in a nuanced and inventive way – resulting in a building that is contemporary, but identifiable as part of an established tradition.
Photography: Derek Swalwell.