R. Beaver
Images Publishing Dist A/C | 1864701412 | 2006 | PDF | 352 pages | 43 Mb



In this superb publication, IMAGES has collected 100 projects from the best architects and interior designers in Australia and New Zealand. Including beach bachs, city apartments, country retreats, suburban homes with a twist, holiday shacks, and much more, this book is guaranteed to delight even the most jaded architectural palate. 'Down Under' architecture is indeed unique, whether due to the astonishing ocean, mountain or landscape views, the clever use of indigenous or local materials, or inventive responses to challenges of climate and site. It is always evolving, and increasingly the worthy recipient of close international scrutiny.

Presented with gorgeous colour photos and plans, as well as contact details for all the architects and designers represented, 100 Top Houses from Down Under is a fabulous resource book for would-be renovators and dreamers alike.


As one example, the Seresin House, by Pete Bossley Architects, encompasses a house, guest house, shed, and boatshed in Waterfall Bay, part of the Marlborough Sounds, at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand. The site for the house is adjacent to a jetty, tucked onto a narrow sliver of land between the sea and the rising hills behind.

It was important that existing trees be maintained, which meant that that lower levels had to be cut into the bank to reduce the impact of the overall form. Arrival to the site is normally by sea to the jetty, so the double-height glazed stair space reflects the axis of the arrival sequence, while the entry path zigzags off the axis and then returns.

The house has two elements: a two-story main wing with guest bedrooms below and living rooms above, and an upper-level main bedroom which is linked by a cranked and rising glazed bridge, under which the landscape falls towards the sea. This bedroom reaches out over the bank into the tall beech trees, supported by a collection of leaning posts suggesting an instability and sense of movement appropriate to the owner's lifestyle.

A concrete fireplace is expressed on the outside of the otherwise wood box to further suggest the sense of imbalance. To create a sense of comfort and avoid a brittle "newness," wide floorboards, which will quickly age, were combined with a variety of plywood linings, demolition hardwood beams and columns, and timber joinery.

The house is beautifully "inhabited" by a collection of fine, well worn, mainly mid-20th-century furniture and light fittings. A variety of window proportions and positions ensures an interesting range of connections to the sea immediately below, and to the middle distance views across the bay.

East Melbourne Residence

This three-level town house in East Melbourne, Australia, was built in the early 1990s as urban infill but suffered from poor design and substandard finishes. The building was divided into small rooms and lacked daylight in the ground-floor living areas. There was also a serious problem with heat gain from the east and west elevations during the summer. Access to the rear garden was via a single door at the end of a light well.

On the positive side, the property boasted a good-sized rear garden and a double garage off a rear right-of-way. The renovation objective for Inarc Architects was to provide unimpeded views into the rear courtyard garden from the living areas. They relocated the kitchen to the front of the house and moved the laundry to the basement.

The courtyard garden has become an extension of the living space with a large sliding glass panel connecting the interior with the redesigned exterior. The clean, open plan of the ground floor was achieved by supporting the southeast corner of the first and second stories with a series of transfer beams.

The first-story floor of the original light well was removed to create the three-level skylit atrium. The installation of motorized external aluminum louvers has substantially cut down the heat load on the east and west elevations. All the existing wood-framed windows were replaced with aluminum-framed, double-glazed units. This promotes heat retention in winter and also significantly reduces the ambient traffic noise.

On the ground floor, a polished bluestone floor acts as a heat sink in the winter when exposed to the morning sun and also acts as a unifying element over the three changes of level from the front entry door to the rear sitting area.

Milsons Point Apartment

The client's charge to architects Stanic Harding Pty. Ltd. was to transform a poorly planned apartment in a former multistory office building in Milsons Point. The existing condition denied the occupants connections to views and light by stacking bedrooms along most of the perimeter. The kitchen was also effectively disconnected from the dining area and the narrow living space by being tucked into the rear of the apartment.

The architects' response was to strip the apartment back to its bare shell, allowing major replanning to encompass the new requirements of a considered entry sequence, connection to sky, light and view, and the separation of public and private spaces.

One of the three bedrooms was relocated into the back of the apartment, allowing the two remaining bedrooms to be increased in size with better connections to light and view. The public spaces then increased in size along the perimeter window. The third bedroom became a guest/study space raised above the main floor level.

The kitchen/dining space was brought into the main living/entry zone. The main wall was clad in full-height mirror panels that at once doubled the perception of available space and reflected the harbor view into the body of the apartment. A chocolate wood floor now defines the main spaces, and very plush shag-pile carpet is in the lounge and bedroom spaces.

Joinery played an important role in this transformation. The main kitchen joinery is a rectangular pod that divides the kitchen and study/guest room. It houses the main kitchen bench and associated storage on one side, general storage at each end, and the study on the other side. A dark wood veneer wall unit forms the edge of the living space and presents as a series of solid engaged columns that house audiovisual and entertainment equipment. A sliding screen forms part of the unit's composition and, when closed, hides the plasma screen.

Lilyfield House

A house for two architects — designed by Peter Tonkin and Ellen Woolley with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer — for a small and difficult site became a laboratory for experiment and investigation.

The site, in Sydney's inner west, is of strong character. The western part, falling more than 20 feet (6 meters) across the frontage, contains major natural rock outcrops and floating boulders and adjoins a reserve of eucalypts, both significant remnants of the indigenous landscape. The eastern part of the site is at street level, and its surrounds are more aggressive and urban. To the east are good views of Sydney and the harbor.

The accommodation is simple: three bedrooms upstairs, on the main level a library and a big room containing living, kitchen, and dining that open onto a terrace, and at street level, a workroom, laundry, and garage. The big room focuses in three directions: east to the city skyline and the terrace, west to the theatrical central "fire" — the kitchen with its white altar for cooking — and north to a secluded grotto hollowed out of the boulders, a tiny back yard.

The house's southern circulation zone, in concrete and brick, buffers a busy road and washes the house with daylight. A "carpet" of wood: bridge, stairs, balcony, and furniture, extends through this zone, bridging between its massive walls. The northern light of the clerestory floods this long, tall slot. The street wall is a plane cut away for openings, its exterior in two shades of black.

The central wall plays off solid against void. Thick, sculpted piers bear three stories of uniting concrete beams. The piers hold carefully crafted tight niches as well as storage, wood cabinets, and services. Inside the simple northern box that houses the living spaces, rooms are calmly proportioned rectangles, maximum accommodation in a tight area, in contrast to the vertical drama of the circulation buffer.

In all these houses, the shared characteristics and themes might group them into a loosely defined "Down Under aesthetic," but each house stands alone as testament to the skills of an individual architect or design team.


Contemporary residences by Australian and New Zealand architects share several common themes, most notably a sense of environmental stewardship and a desire to blend with the surrounding landscape, whether it's a historic urban street or a protected coastline. These architects favor indoor/outdoor rooms and often zone houses into pavilions. "Green" features abound, including natural ventilation, use of natural materials, photovoltaic panels, and rainwater collection systems. And often, the location itself is spectacular and framed in views from the interior. — Editor

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