Simon and Freda Thornton ARCHITECTS
The Baluba House Extension HAWTHORN
This 1920’s house had already been extended in the past, and it seemed best to try to get good value out of what had been added, rather than simply pull it down. The new work is designed to fill in the ‘missing part’ of the L-shaped plan, and to mirror the angled shape of the rear of the existing extension to create a large gable.
The big problem was that the small kitchen and meals area in the existing extension was separated from the garden by a trip down a dingy stairwell. The new design locates the Kitchen and Family area a few steps down from the main level of the house, and then there is a further step down onto the deck and finally a small flight of steps down to the garden. The result is a strong sense of connection between the main level of the house with the garden to the south, and a sense that access is easy and pleasant.
During design Simon was researching the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya which occurred in the 1960’s, trying to gain an alternative perspective to that of his colonialist relatives. When drawing the plan of the Kitchen, Family area and deck he put aside his set square and tried instead to shape the plan using strokes of the arm and hand which imitated the outlines of a carved throne from another part of Africa, the Congo. This approach was taken into three dimensions and results in a hand-shaped sensibility. In itself the extension is a kind of rebellion against the constraints of the Cartesian orthodoxy underlying the architecture of the original house and the rectilinear first extension.
This was further enhanced by Dianne Peacock, who worked with Simon. In choosing materials and colours for the Kitchen, Dianne ‘clothed’ the joinery in an aesthetic drawn from a 1960’s dress worn by Kathleen Hanna in her band Bikini Kill. The large pocket openings were translated into handles, and the buttons into drawer knobs.
It all comes together in a house which expresses an empathy with popular resistance movements and an acknowledgement of the importance of the handmade, in both industrial and pre-industrial cultures.