Tiger Prawn

Tiger Prawn

Architect
WOWOWA Architecture
Location
Fitzroy North Victoria, Australia | View Map
Project Year
2018
Category
Private Houses
Shannon McGrath
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct Name
FurnitureDesign Nation
ChairsSaba Italia
NEW YORK | Chair with armrests
ManufacturersCORIAN® Design
Lama handles in ‘Brass’Olivari B. spa
ManufacturersArtedomus
ManufacturersBowral Bricks

Product Spec Sheet
Furniture
Chairs
NEW YORK | Chair with armrests by Saba Italia
Manufacturers
Lama handles in ‘Brass’
Manufacturers
Manufacturers

Tiger Prawn

WOWOWA Architecture as Architects

Project Overview

Glorified in architecture forever, the humble tiger prawn becomes a two-pronged deity for this Fitzroy North renovation. The existing double storey Victorian Terrace's zig-zag (almost scalloping) brown and gold brick façade was translated and embellished to form the scalloped extension to the rear, whimsically drawing a fortified silhouette in the sky.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

This urban delight approaches the perimeters of contemporary living in a fresh way by championing the civic mindedness of private dwellings - glamorous front AND back. It could be a reinterpretation of the original, something that speaks to the old but is in all ways new. The house's heritage chic pattern was created using ordinary bricks laid in an extra-ordinary way. The sculptural complex geometry of our form is derived from standard bricks cleverly laid too – squint, header and cant bricks. The playful nature of the weighty vertical scallop gestures are not only as grounded and powerful as the front but use it's own solidity and curvature to express depth, a sense of relief and deep reveal windows for shading - poetic harmony at its best.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

Project Brief

This job had a unique beginning, in 2014 WOWOWA produced a series of renovation tip YouTube videos celebrating some of Melbourne’s featurist houses Robin Boyd famously identified in the Australian ugliness. Often, colloquial vernacular nicknames were given to distinct housing styles, early Victorian pattern brick facades, like this project's were coined ‘Tiger Prawn’s’. These clients came to WOWOWA proclaiming they have a Tiger Prawn house and were eager to honour the glory of their Victorian terrace frontage with a new addition out back. Another key feature was the distinct Fitzroy North site was the carpark and laneway adjoining the back of the property, the back was publicly viewed and so from the outset we treated the back not only as a back but also a front. Reminiscent of ‘Janus’ the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, time and duality - depicted with two faces, so he could look to the future and to the past. WOWOWA thought this duality of past and present, front and back was an excellent driver for a narrative rich project.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

Project Innovation/Need

A god with two faces. The brief called for a mirroring of the robustness, craft & ornament of the front out the back in the spirit of cohesion and reinterpretation of the existing visual language. This mirroring of Jasus’ faces started in plan – quite simply by mirroring the terrace frontage to the back, setting up a similar duality. From there, the form was eroded to allowing for maximum light, flexibility and amenity into the densely programmed spaces.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

A commitment to the Tiger Prawn thematic ran deep and became a seafood buffet and everyone was invited. The crustacean’s shell inspired the fluted geometry but also the colour scheme – the grey and green hues of the raw prawn favoured by the photographer client loving monochrome prints. Furthering the sea vibe is the pearl earring ball light on the brick, cuttlefish bone ribbed pendants and upstairs screening shadow play (likened to the little scampering prawn legs) that dances over the highly decorative concrete floors which tie together the semi-compartmentalised kitchen living & dining areas of the downstairs. The Dichondra hanging from the balconies dancing in the wind like seaweed floating. A bridge too far you say? ‘Don’t come the raw prawn with me’ – this Australianism being enjoyed as the other client was a lawyer.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

Design Challenge

The back façade dramatically turns the corner one meter off the boundary allowing it to also dance along the Northern edge. As well as providing a handsome vista for neighbours, it allows for large north facing windows that facilitate an impressive amount of borrowed landscape for such a tight 5m wide site. The fire regulated setback windows dually create substantial storage below and a high-level pocket garden.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

Like all Victoria Terraces, the house was dark, depressing and everyone living on top of each other – the brief was breathing space – together but apart. The whole family can now be in any kitchen living or dining nook, divided by courtyard & spatial play, but feel a sense of retreat. Light filled breakout spaces for a family of fours happiness and well being. A “V” light-well with a special curved glass corner to the Southern boundary breaks up the mass and again, fills the space with light & ventilation. This project keenly responds to its tight 5m wide site making the most of it's position, but what makes this project special is it's strong and consistent thematic and it's geometric genius and control. It is disciplined and restrained as well as wild and ambitious in form.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

Sustainability

A socially sustainable outdoor moment is the upstairs deck above the kitchen – accessed either out the heritage window from the kid’s bedroom or from the small staircase in the thin bridge between old and new where a desk snugly fits. This surprising cubby house like and exemplifies the maximum amenity gained for such an urban condition, for the two children now and into the future.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

The builder built us a solid house – a house so solid, if it burnt down the brick ruin would still remain and be magnificent. He made the WOWOWA designed timber table and carefully tiled the terrazzo and brass detailed bathrooms. The bricklayer phenomenally got the scallop edges crisp and generously bricked the small steps out to the garden as a bonus because he loved the design. A truly handcrafted outcome that everyone is proud of - this is true sustainability because it's livability as well as lovability.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

Big ticket items were the bricks and glazing. Coupled with the fancy concrete floor and bench top along with matching the height of existing ceilings, the budget was surprisingly modest given the impact achieved. The storage filled, space saving, dining bench seat sits within a pop out box on the boundary and facilitates beautiful views to the Street and East to the cantilevered scallops. This area is lightweight and speaks to a prioritising of economies. But, like all WOWOWA's work, Tiger Prawn packs an environmentally sustainable punch with insulated double brick cavity walls, double glazing with low-e, cross ventilation, thermal floor mass and a tidy footprint.

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath

Team
Architects: WOWOWA Architecture
Builder: Moon Building Group
Landscape: Straw Brothers
Photographer: Shannon McGrath

photo_credit Shannon McGrath
Shannon McGrath
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