An architectural mountain range - ISPLORA

An architectural mountain range


RaeRae is an inner-city family home which incorporates two pre-exisiting terrace houses. A glazed entry, set back between the heritage buildings, unites the two and forms the gateway to new architecture, surprising in light and scale. A responsive project by Austin Maynard Architects.

Unconventional but thoroughly logical; like a German sports car, the beauty of RaeRae’s exterior belies the highly tuned rationalism that generated it. Whilst first appearances may suggest otherwise, logic, reason and rationality are the cornerstones behind the design. 

Initially it looks to be fanciful, an architectural mountain range, but at its core the house is responsive and strategic. The roof form is contextual, every rise and fall is tuned to minimize overshadowing and visual bulk, only truly apparent if it were studied from above. The roof is low against abutting gardens to avoid overshadowing, and high where the neighbours have built against the boundary. In creating height in all the areas, both internally and externally, the mountain profile emerged.

The same rational principle applies to the exterior materiality. The considerable weight of brickwork always meets the ground, and is never elevated. Wherever there is an opening, there is timber above, resulting in minimal structural steel, significantly reducing cost while also adding pattern and beauty. It is a strategic way of thinking about structure which ensures the budget is met, yet also leads to a diverse aesthetic. Similarly the window locations, externally randomly placed, yet internally undertake specific spatial functions.

At the rear of the block, the unusually wide laneway has a transitional emergence, lots of garages, extensions, subdivisions and newer builds that have capitalised on the dual frontage aspect. Rather than defend from the street, the design opens to this public space. With no heritage constraints to this frontage, the aim was to engage with the street and the neighbours, with direct access, large openings and windows.

RaeRae was specifically built along the southern boundary to take full advantage of the northern aspect. Living spaces face the sunny northern garden, while storage and services are to the south. Reorienting the home along the southern boundary maximises passive solar gain and ensures a sunny garden with minimal shadow, ideal for Melbourne’s climate. All windows are double-glazed with fixed external awnings to provide shade. A large water tank has been buried within the garden. All roof water is captured and reused to flush toilets and water the garden. The home is designed to be durable and long lasting. High quality and highly sustainable materials are used throughout. Beyond its obvious aesthetic qualities, slate roofing offers a highly robust surface with a lengthy life span and no maintenance. Slate is a natural material. It doesn’t go through a resource hungry manufacturing process, it’s not full of chemicals and can be re-used.

Highly functional and rational homes can sometimes be banal, but RaeRae house is an attempt to challenging this; to create a rational house filled with secrets and discovery, not for outward show, but for the occupants individual experience and evolving needs.


  • Source: Media kit Austin Maynard Architects
  • Photographer: Peter Bennetts


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