An Urban Oasis Intimately Connected to the City: Melbourne Laneway Home by O’Connor and Houle.

an-urban-oasis-intimately-connected-to-the-city:-melbourne-laneway-home-by-o’connor-and-houle.

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Styling by Bek Sheppard. Photography by James Geer.

 

The idea of living in a spacious loft in the city is something most of us would’ve dreamed of. I, for one, have definitely lusted over the idea of residing somewhere centrally located while enjoying an abundance of open living space with an edge. Yet, urban warehouse apartments, as appealing as they sound, come with an unavoidable set of challenges – from navigating heritage regulations, interior shells often left with dodgy smears of time and bad “design” decisions, a slew of issues related to structural integrity, acoustics and so forth. It takes a special kind of client to fall in love with a space riddled with problems, and see nothing but its potential, rather than focusing on the many obstacles to overcome.

This was certainly the case with this special Melbourne laneway home that occupies an entire ground floor of a 1907 warehouse built by Sir John Monash — an advocate of reinforced concrete, whose now heritage-listed building is considered a pioneering exploration of off-form concrete.

The owners, a professional couple – with backgrounds in fashion and property development — originally rented an apartment in the same building where they could “have a bit of fun” while waiting for their family home renovation in Windsor. However, they immediately realised this was their dream project, and immediately neglected the inner-city suburban home to focus their efforts on securing a whole floor in the CBD building.

 

Related: SCH52 Loft in Berlin by Batek Architekten.

 

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Working in close collaboration with the local architecture, interiors and landscape design practice, O’Connor and Houle, whom the couple worked with previously on several projects, give rise to a special city abode that celebrates the building history while accommodating more than meets the eye.

The original concrete structure was completely concealed by plasterboard with partitions extended to the ceilings. Spaces were generic, enclosed and devoid of natural light, and the bedrooms were noisy, particularly at night during waste collection times. The artificial light from nearby bars and restaurants also made restful sleep impossible. The owners were seeking a combination of spaces that felt open, light, quiet and refreshing, and very much an antithesis of the inner-city context and the pace, noise and bustle of the city.

O’Connor and Houle’s conceptual aim was to expose and preserve the heritage concrete structure. They set a datum above which partitions are glazed, revealing the historic expanse of beams, columns and slabs of the warehouse. Principally, two ‘new’ materials were introduced in the palette – Canadian Rock Maple and steel glazing bar – chosen for their contrast to the rough and robust nature of the concrete.

 

Related: Ketelhuis Residence, Gallery Space & Artist Studio in Zaandam by Studio Modijefsky.

 

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The new interior distinctly contrasts the robust structural shell, so the beauty of the early off-form concrete form plays an important role in the daily aesthetic experience. The fitout also deals with all the unpleasant aspects of the urban context — excessive noise, lack of natural light, bad odours and stale air.

To combat the intrusion of nighttime noise, a garden atrium wraps around the interior, with three layers of glass in various thicknesses filtering and counteracting various sound frequencies. The internal space is now silent at 4 am while a rubbish truck upturns industrial bins full of glass outside.

A fresh and serene interior palette creates an atmosphere of calm, further illuminated with light fittings that up-light the concrete, featuring adjustable colour-temperature LED lights that cunningly mimic external light conditions.

 

Related: Tommaso Spinzi’s Epic Loft Apartment in Milan.

 

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Spatially, in accordance with client brief, this home accommodates three bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, two study spaces, a media space, a yoga space, a child’s play area, two dining and two livings spaces, a commercial kitchen, an outdoor living area and a separate office suite with a dedicated kitchen, bathroom and entry.

Having completely changed the way the clients live, this Melbourne warehouse is not only undeniably beautiful, all spaces within are well lit, calm and quiet, with purified and odourless fresh air replenished constantly. A tranquil urban oasis that still very much feels intimately connected to the city.

 

Related: Converted Loft in the Heart of Shoreditch, East London by Chan & Eayrs.

 

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