Winner of the 2017 Harold Desbrowe-Annear Award, the Australian Institute of Architects’ highest residential award, the Rose House by Baracco + Wright Architects combines two residences within a prominent and singular brick form.
Af Elliott Webb
Exploring three activated frontages and filling the prominent suburban-cum-public site, the building balances its residential program with a responsive civic presence. The continuous brick form breaks down from west to east to create flexible street-protected retreats resembling other humble parkland structures. It reinterprets the splendor of the historic brick buildings of its context with a playful interpretation of rounded Art Deco geometry.
Designed for the Rose family, this project combines two residences in its singular volume: a two-bedroom terrace-like house for the adult children, and a three-bedroom-plus-study house for the parents. The smaller house to the north is designed using a contextual terrace typology that maximizes its east and west vistas. At just over five meters wide and 30 meters long, it extends the pattern of the street through its entry, setback, and typology. The larger house faces the southern corner with a prominent form, akin to a castle turret or hull of a ship, with an entry at its curved mouth. It fills the wedge-like site with an inner urban sensibility and no real allusions to a metaphorical piece of architecture.
With the elevations and residences responding to different cues from the street, reserve, and site, the combined houses are reconciled as a single piece of architecture. The west façade is mostly solid with sharp punctuated windows, presenting a hard, confident mass to the street. This condition breaks down as the form wraps around to a more intimate relationship with the Edinburgh Gardens and the bike & pedestrian path to the east. The façade becomes much softer as the materiality of the exterior adapts in a play of negative space — using transparent mesh, pergola frames, and larger windows, and picking up the reflection of trees and surrounding planting.
The triangular form, squeezed to the boundary, was also the result of an aim to create interior spaces that achieve a level of privacy on the public corner while maintaining a strong connection to the site. The smaller house to the north is open on the first floor, connecting the user simultaneously to the east and west views. The larger house, utilizing the hit-and-miss brickwork of its curved point, creates a screened study at ground level. The under-croft and setback to the east allows for flexible outdoor zones that are sheltered and mediate the ground-floor living space with the openness of the reserve and public bike path. Mesh curtains are used to enclose this space, operable along the entire length, they offer a shared spatial quality with the adjoining public reserve rather than a hard wall or garage door. The space is designed to be used recreationally but can also accommodate car parking. It demonstrates a reversal of the street pattern by engaging the perimeter in a playful manner and treating the nature strip, reserve, and gardens as an extension of the home.
The first floor’s continuous band of windows creates a seamless relationship with the park across the road and the reserve to the east. This relationship is reflected in the planning technique of the interior as well: bathrooms, internal cores, and staircases are kept central to allow the residents to be in touch with the perimeter as they move around. By pushing the living spaces to the street’s edge, this planning technique of spatial displacement rather than division allows the building to flow freely around the perimeter so that the residents can enjoy every part of its prominent address. An attempt to have no back or rear as seen in this build is a key planning strategy of Baracco + Wright Architects.
At the building’s highest point, a roof deck sits discreetly within the roof-line, taking advantage of an adjacent tree and adding to the varied types of outdoor spaces offered through the form. The garden to the west and south, a collaboration with the landscape architect Amanda Oliver, continues the accumulation of native greenery of the side street with a layer of purple flowering plants, a nod to the Jacaranda trees of Edinburgh Gardens.
Baracco + Wright’s spatial exploration and ingenuity are showcased in Rose House’s relationship to the site’s context, and the grandeur of the prominent address; the spatial planning and responsive, clever materiality successfully temper the public/private duality of the site in a valuable demonstration of design flexibility for inner-city density.