This development project was conceived and driven from a design sensibility to thoughtfully infill a previously ignored space while achieving financial return. Within a very tight budget (under $600,000) the project creates two adjoined houses through the innovative use of timber in a dense, urban context. The site is located in a narrow laneway with no other street frontage. It is a 6m x 24m sliver hidden between the rear face of main road shops and the backyard fences of houses.
The building form steps and contorts in response to the tight dimensions while each facade performs differently to interact with its external context and the internal spaces enveloped. A repetitive structural Cypress frame is exposed internally and externally as a consistent organising principle throughout this assemblage. It conceptually stitches the facades together creating a cohesive whole while dissipating visual bulk. Detailed with traditional rebate joints minimising the need for steel connections, the timber provides a feeling of strength as well as weathered softness. In the cluttered context of the laneway, the south elevation presents itself in a simple unified manner through the repetition of the expressed cypress columns. Textured ‘Ecoply’ cladding with Spotted Gum battening and screening introduces warmth and tactility at the human scale, enabling flexibility and permeability while concealing the letterbox, services and garage doors. Towards the light, tree canopies and residential character to the north, the envelope is set back from the structural frame enabling it to be openable with wide sliding timber doors. This becomes a filtered occupiable space where exposed structural Blackbutt plywood internal flooring seamlessly flows into spotted gum external decking and planterboxes.
The extensive use of timber avoided construction issues with delivery and craneage and resulted in a carefully detailed and tactile building that is a surprising encounter of light and tranquillity in an otherwise gritty urban setting.