architecture with a light touch
australian studio architecture architecture has realized this gently curved extension for an existing cottage in a melbourne suburb. commissioned by a family that prioritizes sustainability, vivarium house is designed to sympathize with its environment, locally and globally. products have been locally sourced where possible, and materials have been selected for their low environmental impact.
‘we wanted to minimize our environmental impact in the renovation of our house and sought out a sympathetic design practice,’ say clients kimberley and justin about the project. ‘architecture architecture was collaborative and thoughtful and have crafted for us a serene and peaceful home that is aligned with our values around sustainability.’
images by tom ross
the brief was to reconfigure and extend the existing bungalow to create a three-bedroom house with a flowing kitchen, dining and living space. the architects kept the footprint of the new extension minimal, allowing a modest 28 sqm per inhabitant. the rest of the site is left for nature.
regarding the existing house, architecture architecture removed part of an old wall to establish a ‘green corridor’ that runs from the entrance all the way to the back yard. at the end of this green corridor, there’s a central courtyard that can be accessed from the kitchen and living areas, blending the social heart of vivarium house with the wild nature outside.
equal to its connection to nature is vivarium house’s impressive sustainability agenda. in addition to its small footprint, the design team have carefully considered the building’s energy efficiency and the embodied energy of its materials.
some of these strategies include passive ventilation, a 3000L rainwater collection tank, the use of recycled timber and locally made kitchen tiles, zero gas use, and connection to three-phase power to run electric hydronic heating and in anticipation of an electric car.
low VOC finishes, stainless steel fixtures, the elimination of mdf carcasses, and magnesium oxychloride wall linings in lieu of plasterboard are used throughout, increasing the longevity and durability of the house. the insulation and glazing of the existing structure have also been upgraded while the demolished materials were recycled as far as practical.
for the landscaping, native plants appropriate to melbourne’s climate have been chosen. the garden also helps maintain a comfortable indoor environment as tall grasses and climbing vines provide shade during hot summer months. vivarium house also boasts seasonal vegetable and herb gardens so the family can cultivate their own produce.
the architects say, ‘in time this house will be consumed by its gardens. already the buzz of pollination fills the air: bees, blowies and butterflies. nestled between three native crops, nature has the jump start. an extension to an existing thornbury cottage, the new living areas are landscape as much as they are house, tangled through with greenery.’
location: thornbury, australia
architecture firm: architecture architecture
design directors: michael roper & nick james
project architect: daria selleck