Black house

Black house

Austin Maynard Architects
Año Del Proyecto
Casas Privadas
Peter Bennets

Aka toy management house prototype one

Austin Maynard Architects como Arquitectos

Hindsight I had arranged to meet with Bill and Tracey on Tuesday evening. I was keen to show them mydesign for their apartment renovation. I had put together a package of sketches. On the cover Iwrote the words “Hindsight; all the things I would have done as a new parent.

The siren call of the suburbs A new baby often pushes us to conservatism and conformity. Bill and Tracey had lived in their twolevel Fitzroy apartment for almost six years when we first met. Their apartment was on the top floorof a beautiful MacRobertson factory where it commanded an expansive view over Edinburgh Gardens and the northern suburbs. Their’s was the location that we all dreamed of as youngadults. However apartments like this are often abandoned if kids come into our lives. Increasedspace, an extra bathroom and a backyard are factors that often dictate a move to the suburbs. YetBill and Tracey loved their Fitzroy home. They did not want to leave. They wanted clever ideas thatwould allow them to have a child in their much loved home.

Existing The apartment needed a radical rethink. The stair was tight. So tight that it was, in fact, illegal.Carrying groceries upstairs was a nightmare. Carrying a child downstairs could even bedangerous. The lower level was dark, much of it internalised. The entry, on the lower level, wasconfined, dark and awkward. Prams and the bulky baby paraphernalia had no place in theapartment. They would inevitably occupy hallway space, forever tripped over by frustrated parentsand visitors. Bill’s office, the centre of the lower level, had no natural light nor view outside. Theupper level had ample space, however much of it was unused or wasted. With cleverrearrangement an extra living area could be added.

It’s a lot more complicated than you think For Bill and Tracey the biggest issue was space. How would they fit a baby into their home? Forme the fundamental issue was much more than just increasing space. Armed with the hindsight ofraising my own child, my concern was the radical day-to-day changes a baby brings. The endlessmanagement of ‘stuff’ was the key. The trick is to work with the chaos a child brings rather thannaively hoping that your child will choose to be neat.

Parents, gravity conspires against you Gravity is colluding with your child. Gravity conspires in your child's favour. Their target is yoursanity. Parents constantly pick things up, while kid throws them down. Children love droppingthings on the ground. We have all seen the torturous game of a baby sitting in a high chairthrowing a toy to the ground the moment it is placed on their table. It’s cute the first three times. It’sa nightmare the next 200 times. While gravity amuses the child, it punishes the parent. At Blackhouse we have made gravity the parents’ ally rather than the child’s. What if the floor could eat allthe mess up?

The toy box floor Let’s design a floor that swallows the mess. Rather than picking toys up to put back in the toy box,let’s make the floor one big toy box. Let’s get a broom and sweep all the lego in from the top andsides. It becomes a game for the child as well as a new hiding place for her to play.

Sliding wall Your child wants to be with you, always, regardless of how wonderful their bedroom may be. Alongwith them they bring their toys, clothes and chaos. If we provide a bedroom that, at times, can feellike an extension of the shared family space, then it is likely that a child will play in their space and keep all of their stuff there. All you need to provide for your child is a line of sight and the ability tospeak with you without leaving their room. To accomplish this we have added heavy sliding wallsrather than a fixed wall with standard door. If the child and/or you want to occupy one large space,the wall slides away so that the child’s room is an extension of the living spaces. If the child needsto sleep, study or wants privacy the heavy walls slide closed and lock in position.

Pram park Beneath the stair is often lost space. Its the little things that make a house work well. Entering ahouse with a pram and a couple of bags can be surprisingly stressful. Here we have a small shelfto the left of the entry to drop bags and keys. A hidden hatch to the right to slide in the pram underthe stairs. Its the perfect size for a pram, which is now hidden until it is needed next.

Winch Try moving a fridge or a couch in an apartment. It sucks. It sucks a lot. ‘Stuff’ is always on themove in any house, especially a house with a baby in it. Groceries go up, garbage comes down.Clean nappies go up. Dirty nappies go down. Groceries go up. Recycling goes down. And toys justgo everywhere. The new mesh floor, directly over the front door can be unlatched and a winchlowered to haul items of almost any size. It’s a small idea that makes a huge difference to yoursanity.

Mesh is the best Stairs are tricky. Especially in tight spaces. We have tried to create a stair that feels light like lace,which is difficult considering the constant live loads it is under. Steel mesh is folded allowing light tobe shared while also enabling conversations to take place from one level to the other, withoutrequiring you to be in the same space. This was previously impossible. The stair is also part desk,part laundry and part furniture. One can lounge on the steps and chat with both someone at thestudy and upstairs. Furthermore, as apartments at the top of old warehouses don't typically haveplaygrounds for kids, the stair becomes a jungle gym for play and exploration. Give a child ahandful of colourful magnets and a handful of pegs and that stair will keep them amused for days.

The command centre Bill’s office was previously relegated to a dark corner under the stairs. He now has the ‘commandcentre’. The centre of the house, where he sees all and hears all. The child’s bedroom wall can beslid away so that father and daughter can see each other without the need to drag toys into theoffice. The mesh stairs wrap around the office allowing someone to sit and chat or quietly play orread on the stairs, in the same space as Bill. Utility, bathroom, bedroom, laundry, living, dining andkitchen are all directly linked with the office so that Bill can run the house with ease.

1 bathroom = 2 The original bathroom was large. Arguably too large for an apartment. Bill and Tracey wanted anensuite for themselves and a second bathroom for both the child and guests. To squeeze outmaximum functional space we sliced the existing bathroom at an angle with each shower back toback. This rationalised the plumbing while also making use of every millimetre of space available.

Black House Retreating to the suburbs shouldn’t be the default decision. ‘More space’ is often not the answer.The answer is more complex, and can lead to great spaces that do just what you want. All youhave to do is challenge your preconceptions.

Featured Projects
Latest Products