Neil Cownie Architect
With more than 30 years experience as an architect, Neil Cownie has reached an enviable point in his career. Neil combines his passion for design in all its forms – architecture, landscape, furniture, lighting and objects – with his clients’ aspirations to realise their dreams in built form, always aiming to create timeless buildings that will endure.
Architect Neil Cownie places a high regard in designing buildings that sit comfortably within the site’s surroundings and reflects the history of place. Roscommon House is the perfect example of this sensibility.“With a significant legacy of modernist and brutalist buildings still remaining in the suburb, I felt a responsibility to produce a design for this new house that not only served the needs and desires of my clients but was also in conversation with the ethos of the suburb, without mimicking or replicating the past”, explains Neil.
The story behind the design
Among many modernist influences, the embedded free-form concrete building of South City Beach Kiosk was a starting point for the design of Roscommon House and has been reflected in the materiality, curves and flat-roofed structure.The owner’s desire to use grey off-form board marked concrete reinforced the connection with the suburb’s architectural history and greatly drove the design. While working with such a brutalist palette may have been considered an architect’s dream, Neil was conscious this project still needed to become a warm, friendly home, not just an esteemed building.
An important reference point in the design of the house was the South City Beach concrete ‘Kiosk’ building that was under threat of demolition as I started the design process.
With an admiration for local modernist architecture, Neil introduced curves throughout the building and into the interior’s voids, ceilings and cabinetry. “At another level, the building takes reference from the architects that inspired the original modernist buildings of the suburb such as Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier”, says Neil.Artfully placed panes of colour glass inspired by Le Corbusier’s Ronchomp Chapel grace the interior spaces. Indigo blues, shades of contrasting red, colourful artwork and vibrant fabrics further liven the home. Threaded through the interior are touches of brass used in the wall panels, edge trims and fittings as well as custom designed furniture by Neil Cownie Architect.
Take a closer look
Layering materials such as the timber walling and ceiling cladding introduced that feeling of warmth into the grey, modernist concrete shell. “It was important to ensure that these ingredients were used in appropriate measure to achieve a balance within the house”, says Neil.Underneath the interior embellishments, there is a nous of consistency emphasising the key ethos of the house. “I think that it is the consistency of purpose throughout all aspects of the house, its exterior, interior and contents that make this house unique”, says Neil.
“Reflecting the history of the location of the house, seeking beauty from imperfection and an emphasis of the hand-made has led to spaces with a strong sense of belonging."
Outside, the raw concrete palette continued, however, to counter and balance the extent of the muted grey tones, Neil added a splash of colour through hand-pressed cement tiles. “It was a perfect fit for the house,” says Neil. “I love how each tile has a life of its own with colour variation.”As the building was designed in a series of interlocking blocks and planes, tiling block sections of the wall helped highlight the sculptural form. “Reflecting the history of the location of the house, seeking beauty from imperfection and an emphasis of the hand-made has led to spaces with a strong sense of belonging.”
Architect Neil Cownie created Roscommon House with a holistic approach driving the design. From the architecture and interior design down the selection of all furnishings and curtains, Neil curated the home to reflect the occupant’s personal desires. “This, along with several of our custom designed furniture items and light fittings resulted in a home that is in conversation with its contents”, says Neil who by doing so has added another iconic piece of architecture to the ‘Garden Suburb’ precinct.
Consistently emphasising the key ethos for the house and playing with a fluid form came with its challenges. “I felt challenged in making selections between the built form and the contents of the house that would ultimately sit comfortably together,” explains Neil.The shapes of the furniture and built-in cabinetry needed to work with the curvaceous forms of the house. Neil sourced interior and exterior furniture that had fluid or rounded shapes and custom designed pieces to continue the same language.
“I think that it is the consistency of purpose throughout all aspects of the house, its exterior, interior and contents that makes this house unique,” says Neil. Strength can be found in the intricate details of the cabinetwork and the timber cladding reflecting the ribbed nature of the walls and the curves of the iconic South City Beach Kiosk.The relationship between Neil’s influencers and the Roscommon House breathes into every curve of the project’s holistic design. With such strong references to Floreat’s past, the building sits with ease in the suburb yet serves the modern-day needs and desires of the occupants.