Dixon Chambers

Dixon Chambers

Architect
Rosstang Architects
Location
Camberwell VIC, Australia | View Map
Project Year
2017
Category
Private Houses
Tatjana Plitt

Dixon Chambers

Rosstang Architects as Architects

BACKGROUND & HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE.
A large two storey brick Edwardian brick residence on a 1,000 sqm site, dating from the early 1900's. Once the family home of renowned and prominent law figure, Owen Dixon, the house is also known as Beechfield. It is subject to two separate Heritage Overlays.

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION.
The brief was to reinvent and update this substantial residence to a beautiful 21st century family home that respects and retains its heritage significance without compromising the demands and joys of modern day living.

 

The original configuration of the house was an enclosed labyrinth with a procession of narrow doors and passageways. It turned its back to all outdoor spaces. The set back from the street to the west is substantial, creating a relatively deep front garden, and, by extension, the depth of the rear garden is limited.

 

The rear garden was occupied by an oval shaped pool and shed. Access to this area was limited to a single solid door from the laundry. An underutilised grassed area to the south similarly could only be accessed from a single solid door.

 

Visual connections to the rear garden from the house were also limited to small windows from the kitchen.

 

The property sits very close to the north boundary with the main entrance, return verandah and formal living and dining rooms along this northern aspect. It is understood that the property once included the allotment to the north.

 

The existing rear kitchen-laundry volumes are possibly the original stables. Archived drawings show new windows and doors added to these areas in the late 1960's, but many of the original external and internal features are present throughout the house.

 

Interventions for this robust, bold and imposing house had to be sensitive, thoughtful with purpose and longevity.

 

KEY CONCEPTS

1. Respect the forms of the original dwelling

Existing strong volumes and complex roof forms are all retained. The new works are subtle, understated and carefully proportioned. New materials such as steel framed glazing and zinc cladding are fine, light weight and streamlined, and contrast against the existing solid brick walls. The new materials have minimal filigree and applied decoration, which complements the plethora of existing Edwardian details: coloured brick banding, timber struts, timber finiales, brick arches and detailed windows.

 

2. Reconnect to the garden setting; experience picturesque views.

Through the use of new glazed areas, new openings and revitalised circulation, connections to the garden setting are reinstated in various directions and locations. Transparency and connection between the inside and outside, along with new vistas, openings and picturesque views beyond, all allow the house to breathe again.

 

3. Responding to inherent elements and retaining intrinsic rooms

- New additions are conceived as 'pop outs' that respect and complement the original building: ensuite, laundry/butler, family, kitchen. The two open terraces: covered east terrace & open south terrace are conceived also as additional 'rooms'


- Distinct transitions of moving from one space to another are highlighted by new beams and openings


- Position & extent of glazing are carefully considered and balanced to ensure that they encourage non axial picturesque view out to the new external 'rooms' and garden areas.


- Solid wall elements eg. Fireplaces, partial walls, and joinery are retained or inserted to conceal, reveal and anchor each of the individual rooms. Joinery and sliding door partitions are integrated into the rooms but once opened or deconstructed, they reveal further spaces beyond.


- A new basement is the final 'room' concealed under the rear lawn once occupied the by the existing swimming pool. Skylights bring natural light and delight into the subterranean space whilst creating squares of intrigue and tactile contrast on the lawn.

 

FINAL OUTCOME
The final outcome is a well-proportioned, naturally well lit house with a rich sensory experience throughout: from front to rear, through the old and the new. Pragmatic requirements of light, ventilation, aspect and functionality are all resolved within subtle interventions. The solution is unique to the demands and needs of Dixon Chambers circa 2017 and its current occupant owners.

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