Courtyard House / Ha Architecture
Text description provided by the architects. Courtyard House is a Grade II listed bungalow from the inter-war period. From the street there is no visible presence of an extension behind. But the Hawthorn house has undergone a fundamental transformation. The clients, a professional couple, aimed for an idyllic, minimalist retreat – with plenty of natural light in the south-facing location. While the property deserved substantial improvement, their brief was for a modest three-bedroom home on a similar footprint to the existing home. This was not an extension, but a reconfiguration.
The clients’ sincere belief in Zen principles called for an east-facing yoga studio/study and an onsen/ensuite connected to nature. Two designated work areas were also required.
A property-specific covenant dictated an external material palette consistent with the existing house of bricks and terracotta roof tiles. An additional complexity was the long driveway along the west side of the house: this made the “facade” visible from the street. These constraints ultimately led to our design solution: keeping the existing roofline while carving out a large courtyard on the east side of the house.
On arrival, the tranquil atmosphere is set by the wood-lined entrance, itself inspired by the house’s original deco interior features. Hidden doorways lead to the existing two bedrooms (one of which has been restored to honor the original home). A light source draws you into an intricate entrance – then the central courtyard is revealed. It is the sensory experiences of the courtyard that best illustrate the realization of the client’s vision: the sound of bamboo in the wind; the dripping of running water; the temporary experience as the light trickles through the slats.
Operable wooden screens and cladding lighten the heavy materials of the existing house – and allow the occupants to adapt to changing light and climate conditions. Beyond the courtyard, a dramatic new double-height pavilion serves as the home’s main living space. The south-facing garden has been minimized and now serves as a backdrop to the living areas. Throughout the house, framed views of a succession of garden spaces further evoke the atmosphere of tranquility desired by the client.
The landscape was a sincere collaboration between client, landscape contractor and architect. From the beginning, the Japanese maple has been the spiritual and aesthetic centerpiece of the home. A major contribution from Ha_Arc was the private garden at the onsen, where an openable gate allows for a secluded bathing experience or the holistic view of the courtyard. Kihara executed the landscape with traditional Japanese expertise unique to Australia. The Dry Garden requires minimal water and extensive rainwater storage is provided. A sustainable result is further supported by external sun protection; thermal break windows; hydronic heating (with electric heat pump) and a 6 kW solar panel.
Distilled to the most serious and functional construction, Courtyard House benefits from the client’s investment in design for longevity. Reflecting their travel history and personal philosophy, it is a harmonious and peaceful retreat – nestled discreetly amidst the leafy streets of Hawthorn.