Our clients wanted something quite different to that house, but discussions on light started early in our discussions,
Albert Mo

The owners of this home in Kew had once visited the former home of architect Albert Mo, director of Architects EAT. While the modest abode in Richmond wasn’t on the couple’s radar, they were impressed with the way Mo manipulated natural light, creating striation of light on the walls. “Our clients wanted something quite different to that house, but discussions on light started early in our discussions,” says Mo.

As well as light, the brief given to Mo and his team at Architects Eat was for a private home that felt secure, but also one that felt open and connected to the garden. The clients, a couple expecting their first child, also raised a sense of permanency, a phrase that suggested the use of concrete.

The owners purchased a fairly generic 1950s house in Kew on a traditional suburban lot, living in it for a year before engaging the architects. They looked at numerous home magazines as well as inspecting a number of homes on the market. While spaces can be designed to suit individual requirements, one thing that can’t be altered is the orientation of a block. This one is orientated north-south, with the north orientated to the street. “It’s always a dilemma when you’re faced with this orientation, ensuring northern light permeates into the core of a home,” says Mo.

In keeping with the owners’ brief, the home’s north-facing elevation to the street appears like a protected shield. White-painted aluminium battens wrap around the front of the house, enclosing the garage, and feature on the eastern side from where one accesses the front door. “We wanted people to walk around the home and view the form like an object,” says Mo, who enjoys seeing the way this eastern elevation responds at different times of the day and in different seasons.

“You can see the concrete light vaults behind, but they’re slightly blurred with the battens in front,” says Mo. As one moves towards the front door, this ‘second skin’ (concrete vaults) almost creates a ‘trompe l’oeil’ effect.

The eastern side elevation, with its punchy coloured front door (a colour used by Le Corbusier), features generous French-style doors and a shugg-style window that frames the open plan kitchen, dining and living areas. Each of these areas is loosely delineated by four concrete ‘vaults’ that pierces the off-formed concrete ceiling, with highlight celestial windows (some with glass louvres) allowing for northern light and cross-ventilation.

“Our clients were keen to use concrete extensively but I think they were focusing on Tado Ando’s use of concrete, which is extremely refined,” says Mo, who thought a more tactile and raw application was more appropriate. “I was nervous seeing their reaction to the rougher finish as the formply was removed,” adds Mo, who was relieved his clients could understand his decision. ‘With concrete, it’s the imperfections, as much as the way it feels, that has always resonated with me.”

Off-formed concrete also pierces the eastern battens with a series of porticos, inspired by the work of architect Richard Le Plastrier (The Tasmanian Design Centre in Launceston designed many years ago). Concrete also features in the window seats on the edge of the living spaces that ‘spill’ over the garden. “I wanted to include spaces that adults felt confortable sitting on, but as importantly places for children to explore,” says Mo.

Simply conceived in floor plan, the Kew house features a garage at the front, with an adjoining guest bedroom and ensuite bathroom. “Our clients regularly have family staying from overseas, so it was important to create a degree of separation and independence from the rest of the family,” says Mo.

The southern area of the house includes the main bedroom and ensuite, orientated to the eastern garden. Upstairs is a study, together with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom.

Finishes throughout the Kew house have been used in an honest manner. Off- formed concrete features extensively on floors and walls. To complement this rawness, Architects EAT used a limited palette of other materials, such as timber joinery in the kitchen, together with glazed tiling. Linen curtains framing the kitchen and living areas also add softness to the palette, as well as diffusing the morning light. “Concrete has such a beautiful quality and we’re finding that a number of our clients are asking us to build concrete homes. There is that permanency with concrete and it is certainly robust. But I can also see the softer side and the way it feels, both visually and to the touch,” says Mo.

Words by Stephen Crafti.


Architects EAT can be contacted on 1300 360 382. Photography by Derek Swalwell.

Lifestyle & Design

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