Boundless Possibilities

Last Updated: 09 Sep 2015
Lily Yeang

Andrew Maynard Architects gives a makeover to the classic pergola, transforming it into a sustainable, outside-in living space for a Melbourne family.

The humble backyard is as much a part of Australian culture as budgie smugglers or poorly placed Southern Cross tattoos, and in recent years, talk has turned to how to make them even bigger and better. But for clients Derek and Michelle, the backyard of this Melbourne home had to be something a bit special.

The idea with which they approached Andrew Maynard Architects was to turn their inter-war weatherboard bungalow into a home that's immersed
in the natural environment.

"Derek and Michelle really threw down the gauntlet, and said they wanted it to be 'ridiculously inside-out' and 'to have the garden and house flow into each other'," Andrew says. "To accomplish this, we not only employed tested and successful ideas such as sliding walls, bi-fold doors and decks, we also left the building incomplete."

Two steel grilles create a safe path over the pond and into the home's main living area, for which wood and a colour palette of blue and red were chosen. The dining table is by Tom Jordan of Hayball, and above it hangs a Hive Kris-Kros hanging lamp from Hermon and Hermon.

Andrew says the renovated double-storey home, which still has its original weatherboard facade, includes a typical Australian backyard feature – the pergola.

However, instead of traditionally constructing the arbour at the back
of the home, the architects created an unclad, roofless steel frame that forms
part of the home's skeleton.

"Essentially it's a shed that we have pulled to pieces and turned into a home," Andrew says.

"Our landscaping goal is to create a garden that feeds both our souls and our stomachs," says the owner. "We are aiming to have the garden and house flow into each other."

Located between the kitchen and studio, the garden-meets-living space has elements associated with both indoor and outdoor zones, including a grass floor, wooden decking, and a bathtub, for soaking in the sun.

"The idea is to blur the boundaries between inside and outside, and allow the garden to start to grow onto and over the structure, swallowing the building." The plants were intended to create seasonal coverage for the area below, while the structure itself provides warmth and shade to the home's interior spaces.

A clear-sealed concrete floor slab with Hydronic in-slab coil heating warms the kitchen and main living areas in winter. The other areas of the house are lined with Vic Ash and Spotted Gum kiln-dried hardwood timber flooring. The countertop is made of Stone Italiana 'super white' reconstituted stone, the cabinets are of hoop pine plywood, and the lights are by Thomas Gannan.

"The house is mostly oriented to the east/west, with the length of the house exposed to the north to take advantage of passive solar gain," says Andrew. "Overhangs shade the windows from the summer sun to the north, and the 'stripped shed' structure between the kitchen and studio provides shading from the evening sun. In winter, the sun can penetrate well inside the living/kitchen/dining room, warming the floor slab and internal brick walls."

These elements, along with high-performance insulation, white roofs to reduce heat sink, double glazing, and a natural cooling system, mean noticeably reduced energy use throughout the year.

"While providing a home for fish and plants, the pond also serves as a mechanism to passively cool the house," Andrew explains. "Prevailing winds blow over it like an evaporative cooling system, noticeably lowering the temperature on a warm day."

To help reduce urban heat sink, a predominately white colour palette was used for the exterior, both front and back.

But the benefits of the outside-in garden don't end there – it also helps to reduce urban heat sink in the area, something Andrew and his company are constantly striving to achieve.

"A lot of the homes that we work on are inner suburban or even inner city, and there's pretty serious heat-sink problems – just look at the amount of black, and asphalt concrete we've got around," he says. "It's a couple of degrees hotter in cities with heat sink, so the idea is that we get as much garden around the inner suburbs as possible, to reduce it."


Architect Andrew Maynard
talks about the importance of merging the inside and out when designing a home.

What do you think will happen to the exposed structure over time? The unclad frame confuses the line between inside and out. Over time, the garden will envelop that frame and the diction between house frame and garden will blur even further.

What's your favourite feature of the home?
The central garden and bathtub are wonderful. However, my favourite element is the pond. The pond isn't just a rectangle cut into the ground – the paving actually descends down into it, rather than something that's been cut out and concreted
in, and it stitches in with the footings of the house. It really merges garden and home.

There's a bathtub in the backyard – why is it there and not inside?
Look, it's just one of those things – you're chilling out in a bathtub… There's nothing better than relaxing in the garden as well, so why not combine the two?

Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome during the build?
There was a heritage overlay on the site, so we had to keep the front part of the house. We had to work with it even though it was quite derelict.

What are some of your favourite materials to work with at the moment?
Steel is always a great material to use. We are doing a lot of work with shingles at the moment too, both timber and slate. Shingles are so beautiful and add an amazing texture to any building.

Why do you think it's important that we incorporate the great outdoors into our homes?
We have great weather in Australia, and most Australians want to spend a lot of time in their garden. Blurring the line between inside and outside makes it easier to enjoy everything your home has to offer.


Andrew Maynard Architects (03) 9481 5110, (architect) Mark Projects (03) 9681 7945, (builder)
Maurice Farrugia and Associates (03) 9696 9073 (engineer).


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