Studley Park House attempts to balance large scale modern living with the optimism and ideals of the local modernist gems of the area. Structure, technology, and materials are pushed to their limits in an attempt to contrast the steep topography and native landscapes the area is famous for.

A vacant lot, marred a planning permit for an enormous Neo-Georgian number was presented at our first site visit. With the local knowledge of architect Nigel Lewis and a new enthusiastic client, the early discussions were embedded in creating a sensitive incision into the landscape, whilst also making a heroic statement. Located just a few hundred metres away, the GussHouse by McGlashan+Everist became the reference. Confidently cantilevering out over the landscape to create the carport, the methodical straight lines accentuate the sloping topography allowing the inhabitants to exist with the trees became the inspiration.

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The primary move was to anchor the building in to one corner of the site, balancing and cantilevering out to the other to allow vehicles to pass underneath. Pedestrian access is via a stair, hanging from the floating structure and fulfilling a lifelong ambition to enter a building from below, as per Ivan Leonidov's_Narkomtiazhprom. The black timber dowel screen offers privacy and fall protection and disguises what is essentially a black box. The roof form of the upper level is also legible, angled to allow morning sun to enter in what is, on a site falling to the West, notoriously difficult to obtain.

The client’s focus on their young family and entertaining is reflected through the ground floor where the relationship between indoor and outdoor, living the cooking is fluid and interconnected. While the upper floor of the home aims to prepare the family for the later stages of their children’s lives, where the option for privacy and separation will become as important as the values of shared space.

With its native vegetation and steep sites, Studley Park in Kew was once Melbourne’s formidable playground for young architects. The area sees one of the highest concentrations of significant post-war houses in Melbourne. Names such as Boyd, Clerehan, Gunn, Kagan, and McIntyre feature heavily. Working in the so called ‘Melbourne Regional Style,’ they designed with optimism, pushing structure, technology, and materials to the limits. Our Studley Park house pays homage to this era.

In plan the house is L shaped to allow private open space to the living areas and natural light equations for the bedrooms above. The difficult orientation of the block, combined with the partially submerged nature of the ground floor enables a small planting of rainforest plants along with a glimpse of morning light into the kitchen and living areas. 

The architect managed interiors are mainly composed of clean white palettes and Douglas fir flooring.  Whilst the house maintains a consistent language, the Landscape design by Aspect embraces difference, a native garden at the front, a domestic grassed pitch to the side, rainforest and veggie gardens to the east and rear respectively. The builder’s keen eye and skill is evident throughout the project where simple, yet large details are executed. The bbq by Trent Refrigeration is a must see and our most viewed Instagram post ever! Nigel Lewis’s knowledge and commitment to the Studley Park Modern Organisation was also formidable.

Ultimately the brief requested did not call for a small house. The market for houses in this size are comparable in price, but are certainly not comparable in the level of finish and individuality offered.

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Photography by Peter Bennetts.