Highbury Grove by Ritz&Ghougassian

Redesigned and extended in 2017 by Ritz&Ghougassian, this inspiring single family house is located in Melbourne, Australia.

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Highbury Grove is defined by a street frontage of uniform federation style cottages set in orthogonal rows and folded in amongst leafy suburban gardens. The project was required to deal with the heritage street frontage and a lane way to the northern side of the property. The project responds by creating an architectural envelope that orientates to the north whilst providing privacy to the public laneway.

The original character and detailed heritage front is expressed as a singular white silhouette. Spotted gum floors replaced a decaying timber flooring structure, whilst neglected fireplaces, previously stripped of their ornamentation are cleaned up and new hearths are placed at their feet.

The connection between the heritage architecture and the new addition is expressed as a singular moment cast in shadow. The user is squeezed into close contact with the concrete walls, causing a shortness of breath before a step up into a large hollow volume of open air and light. A catharsis for the senses.

Space is loosely defined by a series of perpendicular heavy-set concrete block work walls. The first, a set of walls running the length of the site sit below a second set that align themselves to the northern aspect. Resting upon one another the concrete walls overlap and enclose the architectural space within. The apertures between the walls create framed views outwards towards neighbouring trees or to a courtyard garden of swamp banksia and Australian tree ferns.

Spotted gum joinery and pivot doors insert themselves in amongst the uniform concrete block work walls. The strong fiddle-back grain of the eucalyptus panels creates a series of figures that cascade themselves across the joinery. Each panel presenting itself as photographic slide that when combined morphs into a cinematic expression of a larger figurative movement.

A burnished concrete slab provides the foundation for this masonry composition to rest upon the earth. The athletic expression of steel lintels to the underside and tops of walls allow the user to read the tectonics and dynamism of the space. The project contrasts the medium of light and air against the heaviness of the concrete walls. The overlapping of the walls creates a loosely defined volume, holding air momentarily at any given time. Light dances across a broad spectrum of surfaces, creating an expansive movement through space.

Photography by Tom Blachford

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- by Matt Watts