The Weatherboard House’ is a contemporary expression of design emerging from innovative materialism by F M D Architects

Architecture Interior
Project Credits:
Name of the project: Weatherboard House
Architects: F M D Architects
Location: Melbourne Australia.
Project Team: Fiona Dunin, Alex Peck, Rob Kolak, Ryan Fothergill
Photographer: Peter Bennetts
Builder: Latrobe Building Service
Structural Engineer: Hive Engineering
Project Completion: 2011

Led by Fiona Dunin, F M D architects is a Melbourne based architecture and interior design firm with a wide array of projects of varying scales and types. Their primary focus on innovative materialism and product development, equips them with the knowledge to develop rich and inventive design solutions. With an inventive design approach based on contextual responses and not generalized solutions, they strongly believe that each design solution must be unique.

The project describes a functional extension and simultaneous renovation to a family home located in the NE suburbs of Melbourne. The budget for the project is modest, reinforcing the need to maintain as much of the existing structure and materials as possible. But what sets the intervention apart is the rich and inventive approach adopted by the architects in using the traditional construction materials and creating a dynamic bond between the form and the material, sculpting them as one.




The existing site was merely a medium sized block, one of many amongst the relatively consistent streetscape of the locality with single and renovated two storey weatherboard bungalows along its length. Hence, a primary aspect that needed to be dealt with was the appropriate confluence of the extension with the surrounding areas. Although, the clients were sensitive towards maintaining the current street elevation, they were also fascinated with the idea of crafting a contemporary expression through the extension.


Adhering to economical and philosophical reasons, it was determined that the original structure be retained completely, while also fulfilling the client’s wish of maintaining the suburban streetscape. Therefore, the new extension was to have minimal visual impact from the street; but within the intimate, internal spaces it also added a startlingly contemporary touch to the building.


The principal objective of the design was to maximise the functional areas to accommodate more bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and the living areas to cater to the current needs of the occupants as well as potential future growth. Suggestive of the changing needs and dynamics of the family all the functional zones were planned to be flexible as studies, bedrooms or living spaces. The lower level houses three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living area which seamlessly extends into the canopied seating in the backyard of the house.


The spatial planning was done in a manner such that the family could currently live downstairs, however as the family grows and the children get older, the upper floor extension would provide them with future flexibility and more space. Hence, the upper level consists of two additional bedrooms, bathrooms and another living area overlooking the backyard. At present the upper level extension allows the occupants to offer hospitality to their extended family and friends, many of which often stay for extended periods.


The material and texture played a crucial role in the extension design. It needed to emanate a stark contemporary expression but also develop a sense of belonging to the existing home. Retaining a similar material palette as that of the original structure, the extension boasts the use of weatherboard as the principal cladding fabric, but differs in its conventional detailing along the facade. As it extends away from the existing building, the weatherboards set out and compress in a pattern as they move upwards along the sides of the building, offering a subtle suggestion of what is to come from within the backyard.


Being the most concealed and intimate facade, the north side of the home tapers slightly, finally opening into the backyard. This is the side along which the weatherboards weave themselves over the tapering facade, windows and the pivoting canopies and stretch to its maximum limit. The form and material have been treated as a singular entity, inseparable from one another as they sculpt themselves to follow the path of light and shade over the building.


The window openings, while brimming the internal spaces with light were carefully planned after a detailed shadow analyses on the facade, at the same time allow an immediate connection between the living area and the backyard. The louvered canopies pivot and envelope the entire northern facade offering a dynamic landscape as they cast interesting shadows onto the backyard and internally, throughout the day.


Owing to the meticulous detailing of the cladding fabric, the transition between the two entities, the old and the new is seamless and subtle which has also been reiterated into the interiors. Its neutrality allowed a quiet, almost secretive transition from the existing building at the south, to its modern counterpoint at the north. It is consciously restrained, with the tapered windows offering the only suggestion of what lies beyond.

The resulting intervention offers a vibrant array of spaces for the family to suit their varying needs, while the use of weatherboards and the unconventional detailing of its application created a distinct language which deferred not just to the heritage of the original building, but also in its contemporary expression of the new addition.

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 -Surabhi Verma, Volume Zero.

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