The Apartment House delivers an ‘ageing in place’ housing typology for the clients. It was imagined as such in response to the client’s request for a single-level, universally accessible but elevated and secure dwelling with views. All the primary spaces of the house are located on the first floor. They are accessed by lift or garden stair, and straddle over the lower level garage, outdoor gym and studio apartment. In the opening created between these, and below the belly of the living areas, is the entry off the street.
The landscape is arranged as a series of gentle terraces, from street to rear and encompassing the central garden from which a mesh stair ascends to the east-facing deck. This bridges the U-shaped interior space at the upper level, extending the dining area and completing the courtyard. Configured to safeguard views and the abundance of natural light central to the house’s long-term amenity and delight, the interior spaces look into and through the densely planted garden.
The site of the home is not large and there were strict requirements for avoiding overlooking while at the same time adhering to legal setbacks. These factors began to dictate a possible volume. The site also faces west. There was awareness that many of the inventive small houses built in Toorak in the 1950s were rapidly being demolished in favour of palazzi with parking, overbuilding sites and losing gardens with mature trees. These had been little houses, often brick and often painted white or using the long-gone silica-lime white brick with “hit and miss” brick vents, modest echoes of Toorak’s much larger neo-Georgian neighbours of the 1920s and 30s.
Despite the otherwise closed nature of the façade, the design counters the tendency of the contemporary urban dwelling to wall a retreat from its neighbourhood. Instead it brings the immediate and distant landscape into view from the footpath and presents the very heart of the house – the inner garden – to the street.
A white clay brick is the primary material for exterior and interior walls. Contrasting with the chalky matte-ness of this is the reflectivity of a glazed one, in the same colour, used in wet areas and to form a datum to the base of the exterior walls. Glass inserts within the front brick façade filter the western sun, bringing a play of light to the interior.