Evoking memories of form, colour, texture and light that are typically tied to Asian influences, Kennedy Nolan architects’ latest project (Patrick Kennedy & Rachel Nolan), St Kilda West House in Melbourne, Australia, is a primary example of how to draw on the intangible and on the power of suggestion in the creation of a distinctly unique atmosphere.
Completed in 2013, St Kilda West started out as a bit of a conundrum due to the long and narrow sloping site it occupied. The brief which was to turn the existing Victorian house into a fully functioning family home with the possibility of accommodating frequent guests also included that the design reflect the owners’ travels throughout Asia. Several aspects of the house evoke a Far-Eastern style seen in the dark woods and restrained colour palette which are occasionally lifted by flashes of colour in the bedrooms, the structure centred around the two courtyards, the brightness of the space, as well as the fluidity of the rooms in an enfilade. However, the most notable aspect that reflects the Orient is the stillness and tranquility that permeate inside. Producing a sensation rather than a visual effect, and avoiding the use of obvious Asian representations, the result is a contemporary, functional and extremely soothing residence which provides a veritable retreat from the city nearby. The eye surveys the interiors in a smooth fluid movement that brings an interior calm.
In an interview with Design Files, Rachel Nolan explains past projects: ''I feel like I understand how you inhabit domestic space. I remember what it is like to be a kid, what it is like to be a student, what it is like to share a house, to be single, to live with your partner. I know what it is to have a husband and run a family house. But to be able to use this and find some magic in how you might live is what I love about doing residential projects.''
And it is this sense of discerning ability that shines throughout the project. Responsive to its context with a strong relationship to the surrounding landscape, the architects show how the careful design and layout of spaces can support and reinforce human relationships evident from the house’s floor plan and the role it plays in supporting family life whilst also bestowing individual privacy on the occupants who inhabit it.
As well as its structure and peaceful atmosphere, St Kilda West house also has a strong environmental focus. Solar panels and a cross ventilation system have been created in strategically placed outdoor spaces (notably the two courtyards and the swimming pool); whereas the use of thermally efficient building materials and onsite water storage, render the house energy efficient, another key part of the project brief.
Situated in a beautiful natural location, the house has a strikingly peaceful ambiance aided by the light interiors that are punctuated by views of the surroundings through occasional glass walls and windows. With its views of the swimming pool and plant life in the courtyards, its residents are brought even closer to the great outdoors.