A modernist triumph where past meets future

In designing the Bridge House, Kister Architects marries the historical roots of the ‘70s house with a contemporary extension, bringing to life a modernist triumph.

  • A modernist triumph where past meets future

Text by Gillian Serisier

Can you give us a summary of the Bridge House?

Ilana Kister: Located in modernist Caulfield, Melbourne, the original structure was a double-storey, 1970s, split-level residence in need of reimagining. Referencing the home’s modernist beginnings while designing a contemporary extension for a growing family was key to the brief. However, with the acquisition of a second parcel of land to the south, what began as a single-site, double-storey addition morphed into a double-site, single-level extension.

Landscape architects were engaged early in the design phase to ensure an integrated vision for the expanded site. As a primary response, the original concrete facade detail has been stretched away from the original building to form the ‘skin’ of the master retreat.

Eschewing what has become a conventional strategy, that is, to add a double storey to the rear, this master wing is accessed by a private glass bridge at ground level. A curved shroud conceals the main bed from the neighbours’ view but maintains connection to nature and light – a priority throughout.

modernist home

What was the design brief, and how did you interpret it and respond to it?

Located in a suburb full of modernist relics, the brief was to marry the historical roots of this ’70s house with a contemporary extension that references its modernist beginnings.

The clients wanted to create a home that would grow with their family. Blurring the distinction between the existing structure and the new was a deliberate strategy designed to create a unified architectural entity. A once-dark, enclosed undercroft, the original, elevated entry was rebuilt to create a new, ground-level foyer, light-filled and linked to the landscape behind the original arches.

Landscape architects were engaged early in the sketch design phase to get an integrated, thoughtful, holistic vision for the entire site. The glazed bridge and separated retreat, sunken living room and glazed dining area break the home into spaces that address the many varied aspects of the landscape.

The architectural landscape walls respond to the architecture, creating many moments to explore. Now located on a generous suburban block, the new home sensitively integrates contemporary notions of family living with iconic architecture from a celebrated era.

modernist home

How does the Bridge House demonstrate a progressive approach to architecture and design?

Biophilic design principles underpinned the primary response and facilitated the seamless integration of interior and exterior. Spaces within the home – the generous kitchen, lounge, sunken living room and glazed dining area – are delineated to maximise versatility and garden aspects, resulting in a haven for the entire family, with easy transitions from public to private zones, inside and out.

The prevailing aesthetic is a nuanced balance of old and new: white-on-white concrete flooring meets original terrazzo and bright blue plush carpet, timber lining envelops the interiors, and burnt orange velvet couches nod to the home’s history.

So, too, do the custom-bronze glass and flocked carpet in the sunken pit. The original glazed skylight has been scaled up and wrapped in a timber-lined ceiling to link with nature.

luxury bathroom

What aspects of the Bridge House make it a true stand-out in its category?

As a family home, the spreading out of the house and garden enhances the work-from-home potential, with the glazed corridor to the master retreat proving to be an excellent pacing area. The clients can both work from home uninterrupted while their children play in the garden or rumpus.

On its generous suburban block, the new build sensitively integrates contemporary family living with an architectural relic of a celebrated era. The versatile design embodies biophilic principles, focusing on connection to landscape and flexible living whilst enhancing the existing home.

modernist home

How does the Bridge House incorporate best-practice sustainability principles?

Skylights minimise the need for artificial lighting and are but one of the sustainable principles adopted throughout. Solar panels, hot water and pool heating, offset daily energy use, as well as extensive insulation, high-performance double glazing and external blinds.

Integrated floor heating within the exposed concrete floor acts as a heat bank during winter, while the concrete maintains a cool finish in summer. Stormwater is collected to flush toilets and irrigate the landscape. Modified cladding materials achieve a concrete look and feel without the expensive, non-environmentally friendly in-situ concrete.

Design by Kister Architects

Photography by Peter Bennetts

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