P Gandolfo House

1993 - 1994
Melbourne, Australia

The house is a simple two storey rectangle which, with the carport, encloses two sides of a north facing terrace. The structure consists of expressed steel portal frames with infill panels of cement render over timber studs. The programme called for a four bedroom family house.

The base shell was erected and locked up over a period of six weeks. Fit-out took a further eight weeks. In four months a 260m2 dwelling was complete and ready for occupation.

The external walls do not deviate from the flatness of their surface and areas of cement render and glazing are composed within the structural steel frame dividing the walls and form into standardised panels. The panels provide the basic order for their detailed composition.

The roof is as abstract as the main form. It is detailed to appear perfectly flat hiding the realities of drainage, and the constant eaves overhang accentuates the purity of the formal geometry. The extension of the steel roof beams to the east and west exaggerate the length of the plan and imply that the house is a fragment of a larger extrusion.

The implication that the house is a fragment of a larger whole is also elaborated in the spatial organisation of the interior. Some of the rooms (study, laundry, kitchen, bathrooms and children's bedrooms) are accepted as functional units arranged within the total volume to create a spatial interest that is not expressed by the exterior form. The living areas and the circulation space are conceived of as universal space, the division between the two dissolving to accentuate the dominance of the total form. At the upper level the double height void and the communal study desk are further evidence of the predominant whole. The privacy of personal space is confined to the rooms where utility predominates.

To integrate form and space the northern elevation tries to dissolve the surface between the exterior and the interior creating a complexity not obvious in the purity of the form. The detail of the glazed wall is superimposed upon the sculptured form of the interior spaces creating a visual relief in contrast to the flatness of the large rendered panels that dominate the other elevations.

The most pragmatic concerns in the composition are in the siting, and the relationship of the house, the carport and the landscaping. Siting the house along the southern boundary takes advantage of the northerly aspect but leaves the house vulnerable to gazes from the street. Positioning the carport across the street boundary screens the house making the garden a private domain. The large area of flat paving used to landscape the garden are intended as an extension of the internal floor planes maintaining the abstract simplicity of the house.