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Active ventilation key feature of architect’s self-designed home

What was once a fairly run-down dwelling has been replaced with three brick townhouses, all approximately 140 square metres in area.

The two-storey townhouses are fairly recessive in the streetscape, responding to both the primarily detached houses in Davison Street and the more industrial uses in Hope Street nearby.

Hence, the front elevation is pitched in form, while the side elevation, orientated to the south and laneway, features a hybrid of soar-tooth rooflines.

“We didn’t want the design to scream for attention. A bold architectural gesture here didn’t seem appropriate and there’s something quite assuring about exploring some of the more traditional detail,” says Gilbert, pointing out broad concrete lintels that double as window seats and the soldier course datum bricks that form a datum line across the front facade and in the two townhouses abutting the laneway.

Awarded an 8-star NatHERS rating, the Brunswick development features recycled brick, double-glazed windows and doors and, importantly, an active ventilation system which provides fresh air to each room.

“I love coming back to a place with fresh air after returning from a trip, rather than walking in to stale air,” says Gilbert.

The open plan living areas are orientated to the north-facing courtyard gardens.

The open plan living areas are orientated to the north-facing courtyard gardens.Credit:Tess Kelly

Other sustainable features include concrete floors that allow for both underfloor hydronic heating and are also capable of being chilled during the warmer months of the year.

And to maximise solar gain, there are large glazed doors (2.8 metres in height) to access the private courtyard gardens to the north.

SIPs (structural insulated panels) used for the interior walls are ideal for insulation.

Although Archier and HIP V.HYPE were starting from scratch, it was decided that each floor plan (not including finishes and fittings) would be virtually identical: an open plan kitchen, dining and living area at ground level, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the first floor.

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“There are slight differences in the finishes.

I wanted to have timber-lined ceilings in the living areas.”

Gilbert also appreciates the “hit-and-miss” brickwork outside his bedroom and bathroom, orientated to the street and the morning light.

Mindful of budgets, the kitchens are simple and pared back with 5-millimetre-thick stainless- steel benches and laminate joinery.

The open plan living areas are orientated to the north-facing courtyard gardens to allow the internal concrete floors to act as a heat bank.

The generous concrete lintels below the windows also function for additional seating when friends come over.

Archier was also mindful of the laneway being used like a street in its own right, a feature unique to many inner-city neighbourhoods.

So, a decision was made from the outset to set the timber-battened garage doors back an additional one metre in order to widen the laneway and provide a more pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare.

The bluestone that came out of the ground was then used as front steps for each townhouse.

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A timber-slatted bench in the communal front garden, combined with a low brick fence, also means the residents can engage with neighbours and the local community.

“We wanted to activate the street.”

The front garden is akin to a miniature reserve,” says Gilbert, who like his colleagues, is fully aware of the strong community in Brunswick.

Fortunately, the search for a new home is over for Gilbert.

He has found the sense of community he was looking for and also sufficient private and communal open space.

And though these townhouses sit quietly in the streetscape, they thoughtfully blend with the inner-city urban environment.

“You could say it’s ‘quiet’ architecture, but it’s the way it feels that resonates most,” adds Gilbert.

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