West Bend House / MRTN Architects
Text description of the architects. West Bend House was designed as an inhabited path to traverse the long, narrow lot from the street to the expansive back garden overlooking the banks of Merri Creek. We wanted to give this family of five, with children who are fast becoming young adults, the opportunity to be independent and have time to themselves, but also to create varied meeting places that are not necessarily limited to living or dining areas. Give all family members rooms to be apart and rooms to be together.
Therefore the house was developed as a small village with clearly defined sections arranged front to back along internal and external pathways. A central element of the plan is the inner courtyard, which absorbs the north sun, shields the view of the neighbors and becomes the connecting space between inside, outside, the entrance and a family studio. Most of the house is not visible from the street and a generous setback to the north allows for a winding garden path and a viewing corridor to the mature trees lining Merri Creek. From the garden point of view, the house is deliberately reserved and allows the garden to become the dominant experience.
The site was the site of the first house in Northcote, which faced north rather than the later street. We have referred to archive photos of the homestead facade to the north and scaled down the house to both the street and the back garden. Located on the banks of Merri Creek on a long north-south site, we wanted to create indoor and outdoor pathways through the grounds to the garden and semi-distant views of the trees along the creek. It was also important to us to create a public visual corridor from the street to the stream.
A home must possess two almost diametrically opposed qualities. They must be the shelter and stage for the families who live in them. This was West Bend House’s primary concern, encouraging the highly independent lives of the people who lived there, but also providing a variety of opportunities and means to connect with each other and friends. This was achieved through a wide range of social spaces, varying in size and connections to other social spaces or to more private zones of the home.
Many years of familiarity with the family, we designed another home for them, combined with a detailed and comprehensive pre-planning and briefing phase meant we had a detailed understanding of what was required. The complexities of both parents working mostly from home but wanting to share workspaces with the kids rather than being locked down, the organized and impromptu art band rehearsals, the needs of a larger-than-life teenage son, and those of two close-age sisters , actively encouraging the need for active village life with friends and neighbors to stop by for no reason.
The house has no gas connection and is operated entirely with sustainably generated electricity. There is a 9kW PV array on the roof of the master bedroom connected to a battery at the family entrance. The electricity generated is used in the home and also to charge the electric vehicle. The entire hot water preparation for heating and household takes place via heat pumps. All units are high-efficiency types with low power consumption and low water consumption. High performance wooden windows and doors. Sliding door equipped with lift and slide seal. Windows for passive ventilation are tilt and turn windows.
All the water for the roof is collected and used in a variety of ways for toilet flushing, laundry and landscaping. All bricks are recovered, more in the less popular cream range than the reds. All external woods are sustainably harvested and ground Silvertop Ash. Internal wood and veneers are FSC certified. Orientation, overhangs and thermal mass are optimized for passive heat generation in winter. Thermal mass is also used for daylight saving time temperature moderation.