Kennedy Nolan has gained a reputation as a design-focused practise with a distinctive approach to built form. With a vast portfolio of residential architecture, multi-residential, mixed-use, retail and education, the practice is dedicated to delivering architecture that is highly responsive to its context and seeks to form a strong relationship with the landscape.
For many architects, alterations and additions are the firm’s bread and butter. For Kennedy Nolan, this is no different. “Like so many practices, these projects have become a testing ground for our architectural ideas,” says director of architecture, Victoria Reeves.The adaptive re-use of the double-fronted Victorian comprised of a relatively conventional brief: making the domestic environment functional and dignified.
The story behind the design
“With these projects, it’s really about finding that particular element or dimension to the people that are going to live there and to reflect it in the design,” explains Victoria. From the first briefing, the community-minded clients welcomed Kennedy Nolan into their “very lived-in kitchen” and whilst unspoken, it was very evident this was to be the centre of the home.As in all their houses, the architects began with the elements required to improve the liveability of the home, including zoning, acoustics, privacy, aspect and comfort. However, it’s the distinctive mature oak tree that largely dictated the direction of the design.
“The oak tree is one of those things that is a gift to the neighbourhood more than it is the site,” says Victoria. The enormous mature oak casts a shadow over the entire site and brings with it ample leaf litter, while also occupied by local possums. “As the scale is so large, it’s hard to be on site and get some sense of it.”The location and scale of the oak tree lead Kennedy Nolan to a courtyard arrangement that addressed its negative aspects while providing a functional layout. “This is an arrangement we often come back to as it means the occupants can always feel proximate and the zoning can work effectively,” explains Victoria.
This is an arrangement we often come back to as it means the occupants can always feel proximate and the zoning can work effectively.
Take a closer look
Central to the arrangement is the kitchen and dining room, enclosed by living rooms at either end. Accommodation for the children has been located on the first floor with a northern aspect. This composition provides garden views and reinforces the sense of family and connection.Complementing the scale of the oak tree and providing an architectural backdrop to the central courtyard is a burnt red steel brise-soleil. Whilst offering visual depth and interest, the bold, graphic expression had to perform several jobs, explains Victoria. Sitting in front of functional glass louvres, the structure protects the north elevation from the elements whilst providing maximum ventilation for the internal rooms.
Materiality cohesion throughout Oak House “resists conventional lifestyle architecture blandness and amplifies a sense of joyousness and delight.” From the raw untouched concrete and textured Endicott® cobblestones to the beautiful joinery and precision of the brise-soleil, Kennedy Nolan has mastered the art of knowing what materials to work with, and which ones not too.
Our approach to visual qualities is to always try to be progressive or atypical.
Drawing from the client’s enthusiasm for colour, Kennedy Nolan developed a palette that largely informed the design decisions. “Our approach to visual qualities is to always try to be progressive or atypical”, says Victoria. The oxidised burnt steel of the brise-soleil is accompanied by terra cotta tiles and Douglas Fir; beautifully complementing the warm, earthy tones of the architectural expression.The smoothness of the brise-soleil’s painted finish is offset by Endicott® cobblestones used throughout the outdoor spaces. “They have a terrific, extremely matte, rough-textured feel,” says Victoria. “The natural geometry felt lovely against the gridded tiles and the brise-soleil, and they fall away against the garden.”
The gardens, designed by Amanda Oliver, are integral to creating balance and grounding the dominant architectural form. “The plants are the heroes of the composition, not the built elements,” says Victoria of the landscaped spaces on the ground floor and rooftop.While the brise-soleil is one of the more memorable aspects of the project, for Kennedy Nolan, it’s the composition that is the highlight. There is a sense of playfulness and joy in the saturation of texture, materiality and colour, and the innovative architectural response aptly reflects the client’s character and way of living.