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Architecture: Hill House

April 17, 2012

Designed by Andrew Maynard Architects, this residential addition in Melbourne’s Northcote features a bold cantilevered steel volume poised above a playful artificial landscape.

This residential project in Northcote, Melbourne sits on a long, narrow site common in Melbourne’s north. The house faces north, meaning the outdoor space to the rear of the site is in shadow for much of the year. A two-storey extension added in the 1990s compounded the problem.

The response was to learn from these past mistakes and instead build on the rear boundary – the southern edge of the block. This new structure faces the old house, and enjoys far better solar access than a rear extension would ever have allowed. The backyard has in turn become the centre of the residence, with the old house left as it was.

At first, a ubiquitous modern block was imagined for the new structure. The design evolved with ideas about activating this facade with a place to sit and enjoy the sun: a bench, or a set of stairs? The unconventional form of the Hill House then emerged – a sloping area to lounge and play, with a cantilevered volume above providing shelter from the fierce summer sun while also admitting the welcome warmth of the winter sun.

The new volume is constructed from steel, with a white roof to reduce thermal load. A thin steel plate has been inserted besides the hill, with a pivoting door that seems to defy gravity. The stairs, windows, doors and kitchen benches are all steel – celebrating steel as a structural and aesthetic solution.

The main entry to the house is now via the laneway, into the new addition. The entry leads into the kitchen within the new building, with the garden and living spaces beyond. The bedrooms in the existing house, formerly situated next to the main entrance, are now given more privacy away from the communal living areas. An enclosed corridor runs along the eastern edge of the site, and has been lowered into the ground to comply with boundary fence height restrictions.

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