Kensington House

Context and Design Brief
The brief was for a generous house incorporating 3 bedrooms, 1 guest bedroom and several living areas allowing for concurrent gatherings of parents, children and their respective friends. The long side of the lot faces north with quite a steep slope across the site.

Originally, alterations and additions were proposed to an existing bungalow which had been modified by earlier additions and refurbishments which left it devoid of much of its original character. After preparing and considering several options proposing retention of the house, an alternate proposal was prepared for a new house in order to overcome shortcomings resulting form retaining the existing house. The existing pool was however retained to avoid the further cost of relocating it.

Several strategies were adopted that began to define the character of the new house. These strategies were developed in response to the existing conditions, the client’s brief and environmental considerations.

In planning, the strategy was to shorten your perception (or understanding) of the (otherwise large) house by dividing the house into two parts: a long part containing most of the everyday functions, a formal living area located to the north as a separate, temple like structure, with a tall yet shallow entry hall between the two. The ‘long part’ extends beyond the ‘short’ to put the face of the everyday living area in the northern light (improving amenity and facilitating environmental comfort), while the short corridor between the two frames a view to the garden beyond.

The overall “L’ shaped form created by the two parts facilitated retention of the pool which was reshaped by filling in one of its edges to provide a more contemporary appearance. A courtyard was located directly north of the new family living room framed by the elevated (and terraced pool) and the temple-like formal living pavilion. Other parts of the garden were laid out as a chequerboard relating to specific parts of the house, each with a distinct character and purpose relating to that part.

A constructional strategy was developed using the long structural walls as vertical fins following the lines of circulation (corridors) and extending into the garden. This approach combined with splitting ceiling and floor levels allow light to enter the house indirectly through tall narrow protected windows (in the east and west) or protected clerestories (to the north) that infuse the house with soft light yet protect the interior from the low lying sun.

A further environmental overlay was developed incorporating a system of fixed vertical blades, or columns at the east and the west (street) elevation which were irregularly twisted to provide protection from the sun, privacy from the street, and imbue the house with a grand scale and a distinctive character without resorting to decoration.

Design Outcome
The strategies define much of the external character of the house, yet equal consideration was given to the interior layout to provide well planned rooms. The first floor contains bedrooms for the parents and two children, each with a distinct place for study, sleep, storage and the passage of light and ventilation. A guest bedroom was provided on the ground floor for visiting (or residing) grandparents. The garage, cellar and laundry which were located below the ‘long’ part of the house provide an almost three storey expression to the which is a dramatic contrast to the single storey (and a half) expression of the formal living structure.

The glazed entry provides a open and welcome character to the house without exposing the private parts of the house to public view.