Shadow House / Nic Owen Architects

Shadow House, Nic Owen Architects

Architects: Nic Owen Architects
Project: Shadow House
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Project size: 127 m2
Completion date: 2018
Photographer: Christine Francis

Text provides by Nic Owen Architects: The existing dwelling, titled “O’Brian house,” is an Art Deco house created in 1938 for John Patrick O’Brian, a librarian. The property is significant due to the highly distinctive gabled and hipped roof, as expressed by unusual brick window hood details and the curved entry porch formed all set on a corner site.

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The owners required more usable space, light, better relationship to the outside, an extra bedroom plus a modern fit-out throughout.

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Our approach was to create a shadow of the existing form, a modern sympathetic “copy” of the O’Brian house which offers a simple homogeneous sculptured form, carefully positioned to complement the original building. The Shadow house had to offer privacy from the busy south facing side street whilst benefit from northern sunlight. Therefore, the new monolithic form is windowless to the south side street with the ground floor set back to the south boundary. The roof form mirrors the existing roof pitch, the 1st floor is set against the north boundary (away from the street) to respect the original house form and present the original house chimney. Careful thought and detail went into the design of the external skin of the new building to ensure a simple clean aesthetic, removing all superfluous visual elements.

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The Majority of the existing house was retained, with only the rear skillion, wet room fit-outs and an internal wall removed. The ground floor living area was opened up with the addition of a meals area. The existing bathroom was enlarged and functions as an ensuite / bathroom. The first floor contains a third bedroom with adjacent ensuite. There is a large 4.7m x 0.6m skylight on the north side of the 1st floor roof offering light to the bedroom and ensuite whilst still providing privacy from the street / neighbours. A retractable awning over the skylight regulates light and temperature.

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One unique feature of the house is the “hidden” sliding side gate. The council would not allow off-street parking or a dedicated cross over. Therefore, a rear side fence secretly slides back into the house wall to provide vehicle access if required!

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The shadow house, a three-bedroom inner city residence on a small site offers a sympathetic response to historically sensitive inner-city living.

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