Modest yet ingenious – Architect Philip Stejskal adds character to an 1890’s semi-detached dwelling

Architecture Interior
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Project credits:
Project name:  59 Bellevue Terrace
Location : Fremantle, Australia
Design Firm: PHILIP STEJSKAL ARCHITECTURE
Material Usage : Interior wall and ceiling lining: Lime-washed plywood (BB Grade)
Interior floor : Exposed, unsealed concrete Exterior timber decking / wall cladding: ‘Tallowwood’ clear sealed with SIKKENs product
Translucent wall / sliding panels : Steel frame + Perspex (‘Plexiglas’) lining
External cladding : WEATHERTEX ‘Weathergroove Smooth’ painted.  
Project Team: Philip Stejskal, Frangiska Skiadas, Yang Yang Lee

 

As a young boy, Philip Stejskal’s keen interest in architectural design was undoubtedly predetermined by his childhood. He garnered a fondness for spatial designs as he observed his father build two houses for the family in Austria where he lived until the age of 10 as well as one nuclear shelter in their house backyard. Upon moving to Australia a fascination of different architectural possibilities continued to amaze him.

“I maintain my interest in the ‘project homes’ that populate our suburbs, however, my interest lies in their consistent deficiencies.” – Philip Stejskal 

Philip Stejskal describes his design language to be a little eclectic and intuitive with a mathematical approach. Every project is intended without preconceptions. Based on the parameters that are drawn out to set up the brief, opportunities are explored to an entirely new level. In the process, all the data that is compiled is further processed through sketching and conversations. At the later stage, an idea will formulate which is then pursued through other graphical mediums that best portray design.

“The parameters largely inform what shape or materiality the project takes on. However, there are consistencies, because we operate in a specific context with our clients’ finite means. Material choices will be informed by the pragmatics of cost and maintenance as well as conceptual and spatial agendas. If there is one overarching approach or aim, then this would have to be a desire to extract amenity from any situation. Be this natural light, cross ventilation, aspect, prospect — 80% of housing stock in our city is devoid of these basics.” – Philip Stejskal 

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The project comprises of alterations and additions to an 1890’s semi-detached dwelling previously afflicted by disengagement with its garden and wider context. Like most workers’ cottages, the original home had an introvert appeal to it. With a goal to improve to this association, the consequent Century saw various owners undertake numerous alterations. However there were several factors that caused the situation to stay unchanged namely; a 1.5m disparity in floor levels, a constrained lot width and the advent of internal ablutions.

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It was then later that present owners Kim Cannon and Philip Burns made a positive approach towards Philip Stejskal Architecture with a notion to put across their aspirations.

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The property runs E-W with lane-way access along the northern boundary. The brief formulated came with its own set of challenges as well. A due-westerly aspect across a downward slope towards the Indian Ocean corresponding to the dichotomous environmental conditions posed as a major challenge to be dealt with.

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At the same time the site was extremely proximate and surrounded with inquisitive neighbors.

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The primary aspect was to remove the existing barriers and unite them with their garden. In addition to this, a certain level of privacy was ought to be maintained along with protection from the existing elements.

1. REMOVE THE BARRIERS  9

 

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2. INSERT NEW COMPONENTS

A. CREATE AN ADAPTABLE SPACE THAT CAN SUPPORT A VARIETY OF CONFIGURATIONS

B. MEDIATE THE NEED FOR DIRECT GARDEN ACCESS AND DESIRE FOR IMMEDIACY OF VIEW

C. PROVIDE DIVERSE PLACES TO SIT TO SUIT THE SEASONS D. LAYERING OF SPACE AND LIGHT

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Apart from these pointers, the brief called for an outdoor dining room, a new bathroom and improved privacy to the southern neighbor. The existing kitchen was to retain its original location. Lastly a constrained budget too was one of the primary factors that had to be dealt with through the course of the design.

 

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3. WRAP COMPONENTS IN A FLEXIBLE + RESPONSIVE SKIN

A. HINGED PANELS TO DIRECT VIEWS, BREEZE PRIVACY AND SUN

B. SLIDING WALLS TO SCREEN AND ALLOW SPACES TO MERGE

C. FIXED GLASS TO PERENNIALLY FRAME CERTAIN VIEWS (SKY + GARDEN) D. ABILITY TO SHUT DOWN AND SHIELD FROM WEATHER EXTREMES

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The design eventually evolved, almost by itself regardless of all the site constraints, the brief and the designer’s interest into a nuanced relationship between the exterior and interior spaces.

COMPONENT 1: OUTDOOR LIVING ROOM

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COMPONENT 2: PATHWAY

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COMPONENT 3: BATHROOM

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“An alternative, grounded in traditional notions of the bay window, which suggests that immediacy of connection is not necessarily achieved by removing all barriers and thresholds indiscriminately. It premises that ‘closeness’ is a conscious state that is nurtured when the mind and body are given opportunity to reflect and practice awareness.
Our project therefore seeks to offer our clients varied opportunities for lingering in a state of ‘closeness’ to the garden.” – Philip Stejskal

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Three slivers of space were proposed so as to correspond to the programmatic requirements sequenced by the environmental ones. They are: a new bathroom, access to the garden and an outdoor room.

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In order to bring up a privacy barrier to the neighbor and maximize the usable living space, the bathroom is placed along the southern boundary. It reaches out towards the garden with a bath tub at the bow thus offering the owners with a pleasant view of the garden yet shuttered for privacy.
The access path to the garden begins as a narrow passage, widens to become a terrace with a built in seat and ends with winding brick steps. Each element is progressively lower, negotiating 1.5 m in height from start to finish.

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The outdoor dining room has been designed with a sunken bay window closest to the garden and a built in bench seat along one wall. The north and west ends of the room are wrapped with shutters and clear glazed panels while translucent panels are placed towards the south. The sliding panels when opened create an alternate spatial configuration for a dining table. The space has been modeled to trap the north light at a high level and preserve as much as possible for the southern neighbor.

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Every project requires user participation in the pursuit of thermal comfort or atmosphere. In other words, a richer experience is available only when the user is given an opportunity to correlate to its surrounding context. Instead of a system keeping temperatures constant at 24 degrees, the continual manipulation of the operable enclosure connects the insides with the outside. In this manner, the outdoor room is allowed to breathe and respond to the alternating modes of operation and climate.

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“When closed down, the project consists of an outdoor dining room, a passage that leads down to the garden and a bathroom / laundry. Yet, as various operable surfaces are unlatched, spatial distinctions blur and dwelling potential expands.” – Philip Stejskal

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The extension is clad in a vertically grooved Masonite board that is distinct from the existing dwelling.
The project offers a space that can neither be categorized as interiors or exteriors but is a beautiful amalgamation of both. It permits the owners to tailor the space as per the climate, mood or function. Even though it stands modest in size, the flexibility it offers is undoubtedly stunning.

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Architect Philip Stejskal

– Rhea Fernandes ,Volume Zero.
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