Lee House

1994
Melbourne, Australia

The project began as a speculative development. I was given free reign to devise a suitable programme to suit the site and the budget. As this scheme reached completion our clients’ needs changed and the house was not built.

The scheme centered on a house for a young working couple without children. It is a three level structure with roof terrace, comprising two living spaces, kitchen, eating area, bedroom and bathroom/laundry.

The main feature of this house is the illusion of space. Two devices were used, one being a three storey stair well, top lit by a clear glass skylight. By introducing volume and light into an essential traffic route the illusion of distance and travel through the house is enhanced by that volume. The second device was to create two principal traffic routes through the building. There is one public route, taking visitors from the entry point to the second floor living space. The master bedroom is visible to the visitor but not immediately accessible. This has the initial impact of creating confusion. The private traffic route links the bedroom on the first floor to the ground floor living space and garden, which are seen as private areas. Such duality enhances the concept of distance and added to the illusion of space.

Although suburban in geography, the site is urban in character – on a train line, tram line, bus route, on a noisy intersection, the building reflects this context. The top two levels and the roof terrace have access to the view of the Central Business District. The west elevation has a plywood shading device to ensure that the view can be accessed despite afternoon sun.

Noise was an issue. The structure was isolated to avoid structure-born sound and provided a degree of acoustic insulation. However, I felt that some outside noise enhanced the context of the house.

Internally I proposed hard surfaces to deflect sound throughout the house in order to create uncertainty in the mind of the people experiencing the building – in smaller houses confusion as to the source of the sounds also adds to the illusion of space.