South Melbourne Beach House by Topology Studio - Home Stratosphere

South Melbourne Beach House by Topology Studio

Design by: Topology Studio

The new home and architecture studio was designed with reference to the original house on this site; a Victorian weatherboard transformed in 1956 as an expression of modernist ideals.

The compact design is a rigorous example of small scale, inner-city living, accommodating a family of four within 150m2. Considered planning was essential to achieve spatial efficiency, a sense of generosity, relaxed informality, and allowing gardens and soft light to permeate.

Through texture, robust materials, and form, the design expresses the erosion and weathering that the coastal site is subjected to. The floor is burnished and internal textured brickwork corners rounded, as is the inside of a shell. The wind, rain, and sun act together to bleach hardwood cladding and decks to grey, while internal timber is smoothed and protected by hand finishes. Hardwood screen doors are heavy and close with a thud, switches click, and the doorbell rings.

The new home and architecture studio have been designed with reference to the previous house on this site; a Victorian weatherboard that was transformed in 1956 to become an expression of modernist ideals. The Victorian features of the house were stripped, the room was made for a kitchen at the front that caught the morning light, and spaces were opened up. The remodeled house sat somewhat optimistically with its two corner windows, in a street lined with modest Victorians.

The quality of construction reflected the economics of the time, and the ensuing 50 years of weathering meant that the house could not be saved. Local examples from the post-war years are so often erased in deference to the preservation of the Victorian era. It is the 1950’s version of the home that we have used as the contextual basis, maintaining continuity of local heritage.

The compact design is a rigorous example of small scale, inner-city living, accommodating a family of four within 150m2. Considered planning was essential to achieve an efficiency of space while creating an overall feeling of relaxed informality, and allowing gardens and soft light to permeate. Spatial generosity is achieved through exacting alignments, scale, proportions, and continuous uninterrupted planes. Views and connections from one room to into another enhance this generosity and provide an intricate flow of space.

Designed as three elements, the timber box, masonry plinth, and sculptural form, the external envelope responds to site and function, achieving simplicity and clarity through rigor and a refined material palette. Internally, textures change across a consistent color, shifting the light and transforming the spaces throughout the day. Large sliding doors redefine spatial arrangements, both inside and out, allowing for flexibility of use and connections to the gardens.

There are four clear external spaces, the street garden, the courtyard, the terrace, and the rear garden that wraps the living room pavilion. The vertical and horizontal connection between spaces across the courtyard allows for conversation and dynamic engagement.

Visual permeability and street activation are achieved, with glimpses from the street offered through the kitchen, into the courtyard, and the studio beyond.
Privacy is achieved through careful consideration of sill heights.

Materials and objects from the original house have been reused, including the bluestone hearth, hardwood fencing, and joinery cabinets. Brickwork is recycled and the bluestone paving is a by-product.

Through texture, robust materials, and form, the design expresses a sense of erosion and weathering that the site is subjected to by way of its coastal location. The floor is burnished and internal textured brickwork corners rounded, as is the inside of a shell. The southwesterly winds, the rain, and the sun act together to bleach hardwood cladding and decks to grey, while internal timber is smoothed and protected by hand finishes. New hand-turned maple handles are shaped in reference to the original joinery. Hardwood screen doors are heavy and close with a thud, switches click, and the doorbell rings.

Sustainability

Materials for this compact home were selected for quality and longevity. Cladding, decking, and new fences are radially sawn, inherently durable, regrowth Silvertop Ash and the brickwork is recycled.

The orientation of the living spaces to the northern aspect on a tight site was achieved by the introduction of an internal courtyard. Western glazing was minimized.

Cross ventilation draws the reliable sea breeze over the insulated concrete slab and vents via the skylight as an effective night purge. The mass of the insulated brickwork and reverse brick veneer construction provides thermal stability, while carefully orientated double glazing achieves high levels of natural daylight and thermal comfort. All lighting is LED and air-conditioning is not required.

On a site of 210m2 over half is permeable, reducing stormwater runoff. Rainwater is captured for use in the garden and electricity is sourced from a renewable energy provider until photovoltaic cells are installed.

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