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Petersen D71 bricks juxtapose monumentality and lightness at Park House

Park House is a stunning new home with a strong presence in South Yarra. Yet it exudes a gentle sense of warmth, sitting elegantly in its 19th century heritage context. Built on a tight urban site, Oliver du Puy Architects has thoughtfully and creatively delivered a real sense of elegance, both inside and out, in this timeless family home.

“Using timeless materials and, with beauty and proportion in mind, I’m trying to take command of space, light and shadow,” Oliver du Puy says.

And take command Oliver certainly did.

The original cottage on the site had been rebuilt in the 1950s into a more modern design, and then converted into a mock Victorian property in the 1980s. Now, thanks to Oliver and his team, it has been returned, full circle, perfectly framing its urban and leafy views, and openly celebrating place. It is a significantly more spacious, light-filled three-bedroom home, plus library, making the owner’s once two-bedroom mock Victorian cottage a distant memory.

Every detail of Park House has been thoughtfully considered, resulting in a delicate contemporary design that makes references to the original Victorian townhouse with beautifully accentuated details, most strikingly its magnificent brick façade and verandah.

“The verticals of handmade brickwork are contemporary versions of the classical pilaster — they’re monumental in scale but with a deliberate lightness, and free from any form of ornament, so they don’t detract from the Victorian details of the home’s neighbours,” Oliver comments.

To give Park House its sense of permanence, as though it has been there for years, Oliver’s choice of material palette came into play. Having seen Petersen bricks used by Belgium and Swiss architects, including most particularly the Kolumba Museum in Cologne, Oliver was “captivated by their stoic beauty.”

"I loved the Petersen product and the handmade craft process and felt it would help me achieve my somewhat juxtaposed desires for Park House - a sense of monumentality in scale but with a gentle lightness … The lightness in the D71 brick gives a bit more of a delicate lightness in form as well, and softens it and gives it warmth. I didn’t want it to feel oppressive, and a brick with a big colonnade can feel a bit oppressive; I wanted to give it a residentiality.”

One of the most spectacular features of the external design is the accentuated verandah where the Petersen bricks have been mechanically anchored to the soffit. This is so that Oliver’s clients would feel fully immersed in the bricks on the second floor: “Just like the Roman and Greek temples, I wanted to express the brick as the structure and fully immerse the home owners in the material.” This was a technically challenging task for Lowther Builders, but one that this highly skilled team was able to achieve, with spectacular results.

But perhaps the true magic of Petersen bricks can be seen by the way the changing light of day creates wonderful shadows, and completely different looks, on the building’s facade. “The poetic shadow on the brickwork is incredibly beautiful and is there in full force, showing up the brick in different light conditions and different shadows across the day and night with artificial lighting,” Oliver reflects.

Apart from the façade, Oliver is most proud of the internal design. The creative use of skylights and internal courtyards has attracted an abundance of natural light in to Park House, which is bounded by two adjoining walls. This has also contributed to the generous sense of space within what is a seemingly small, inner-suburban site.

Park House has been an eagerly anticipated build by its owners and, of course, Oliver. It goes without saying that the end result has justified the long wait for completion. It is a truly amazing new and delicately contemporary home that sits snugly and fittingly within South Yarra’s 19th century heritage streetscape. And, most importantly, it’s a home that multiple generations of owners will enjoy for years to come.

Photographer: Tom Ross



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