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The Split House

Footscray, Victoria

The split house is a major renovation and addition to a typical inter-war period house in Melbourne’s western suburbs. As is common for many houses of this period, it had a deep floor-plate compounded by numerous additions and modifications, contributing to an antiquated layout and an extreme lack of natural light and ventilation.

Most of the original house was retained, while it’s numerous add-ons removed, and replaced with a new kitchen & dining zone, laundry/bathroom, living room and upper level study/guest room. Referencing artist Gordon Matta-Clarke’s 1970’s New Jersey series of projects, where buildings were sculpturally ‘carved’ to creating unexpected apertures and incisions; a deep axial cut was introduced in the house, effectively splitting it down the middle, with light from the incision invading the interior and uniting the rooms with a swath of brilliance. This new splitting axis extends from the ground level to the roof and from the rear to the center of the house, producing double height void that draws light through the new zones of the house and deep into the houses’ retained older sections. The new zones of the house have strong links to the expansive garden, drawing the outside in and spilling onto the expansive deck and gardens beyond.

Bild’s design process is committed to collaboration as a key strategy for innovation. In this case our clients were very active in the initial design, and took on the supervising role in the execution of the building. Handing over the design prior to construction can be like playing a game of Chinese Whispers; you never know what you will get back in the end; it could be a disaster but in this case it was a triumph, with our clients introducing numerous innovative environmental initiatives to minimise the impact of the project; including a green roof above the central light and ventilation spine, extensive use of recycled and up-cycled timbers and structural elements, solar water heating and extensive rainwater harvesting for use in the expansive garden. The Split House is could be described as a playful example of Exquisite Corpse, the surrealist parlour game, where the outcome is both unexpected and yet transcended the sum of its parts.

Photography: www.tmphoto.co