Simon and Freda Thornton ARCHITECTS
The Vesica House Extension NORTHCOTE
This first floor extension was designed for a family which had purchased a two-bedroom dual-occupancy dwelling at the rear of a house in Clarke Street, Northcote, in Melbourne. With a growing family, two new upstairs rooms, and a carport, were now needed.
Often the design of smaller projects is an opportunity to draw on themes which are being explored in larger projects. At this time Simon was interested in the way that indigenous pre-industrial cultures were being re-evaluated as the ecological crisis and global warming were becoming major issues in the 1990's, and was developing a design method with emphasis on hand drawn shapes and 'carved' forms. This attitude contrasted with the value system expressed in the mock Federation detailing of the existing house, which had been chosen as a homage to the period of European invasion and settlement. (See also the Outback Extension).
Even in this low-cost project it was possible to introduce a curved edge to the wide eave above the north-facing bedroom windows, and a sweeping curved roof. In the stair well is a window in the shape of the vesica pisces (an ancient fertility and goddess symbol) which also appears on the front doors of the Manse and the Red Vineyard house. The reveals of this window are set into a plasterboard wall which rolls over as it approaches the ceiling, creating a strong three-dimensional form which is enhanced with strong colour. Not expensive, but very effective. Other details, such as the external vesica window architrave, new chunky verandah posts and trim (borrowed from Freda), a new window awning to the existing ground floor front window, and the diagonal trim patterns (also borrowed from Freda!), and boat-like carport roof all combine in a palette of pre-industrial images which send the message that what is referred to is of current, not merely historical, relevance.