Mitchinson Residence

A modest single-storey federation terrace front conceals an innovative two-storey 4 bedroom house.  this new design subverts the conventional terrace-house configuration by creating a spiral circulation path though the new house.  With north to the front of the house, a courtyard was inserted into the centre of the plan to draw natural light and sunshine into the previously dark spaces at the rear of the house.  The stair was positioned to face north so that it would also double as a lightshaft bringing the low winter sunshine (as seen in the photos taken in june) into the rear kitchen and dining spaces.

The client’s desire was for a white house, as a backdrop for artworks and special personal items, but the stair was to be a special feature with a strong, bright colour.  Red was chosen as that colour – creating a beautiful red tube, charging the senses each time one travels up or down the stair.  At different times of the day and during the different seasons, the quality of light passing through the stairwell shifts from subtle to dramatic, bathing the lower spaces in strong sunshine or soft light.  The living, dining + kitchen areas are all in one, reducing their overall size while maintaining a feeling of space.  This feeling of space is further heightened by ‘borrowing’ space from the adjacent central courtyard and rear garden.

The landing at the top of the stair leads to the 2 upstairs bedrooms.  It has a glass floor – another method of drawing more northern light into the living spaces below.  The bedrooms upstairs are large and private, each with their own bathrooms.  To achieve a greater feeling of space, the main bedroom and en-suite ‘borrow’ space and light from each other through the use of a clear glass wall, allowing two modest sized spaces to feel much bigger than they really are.  The highlight windows around all four sides of the en-suite result in a light-filled space that remains totally private in a very constrained inner-city setting.

The overall design is a sculptural composition of intersecting forms, and this is followed through with a composition of sculptural ceiling elements in the living/dining/kitchen space.

Finally, this project is also the latest in an ongoing exploration of sculptural form – I am constantly searching for poetic sculptural forms that do not compromise the use of the spaces within.  these forms become containers for the experiences within.  The composition of this project is a series of intersecting rectilinear elements – from the large scale to the small scale – from the overall form to the smaller sculptured ceiling of the living/dining/kitchen space.

The site has 2 street frontages, so we designed a sensitive façade to the rear, while incorporating a garage door and gate.  Council insisted that some visibility be maintained from the street into the rear garden area, so the garage door was designed with a series of angled blades that give a greater sense of openness between the garden and the street while totally blocking any view into the rear of the house.  The client desired parking but no garage, a garden with many plants and even a patch of grass, so the garage door motor is part of a mechanical sculpture that hangs over this open courtyard garden.  To complete this ensemble, a concrete planter box hovers above.  this was designed specifically to screen views from the residential and office towers in the distance.  since these shots were taken, this element has become the hanging garden it was intended to be and the project sits as a robust and positive addition to the streetscape.

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