‘House in House ‘ is a manifestation of ‘quiet architecture’, informed by Austrian architect Hermann Czech’s interpretation of ‘Architecture as background’. A building may go unnoticed at first sight but reveals itself gradually and becomes appreciated over time.

Project Name: House in House
Studio Name:
Steffen Welsch Architects
Project size: 227 m2
Site size: 402 m2
Completion date: 2015
Building levels: 1
Landscape Design: Kate Seddon Landscape Design
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Photography: Shannon McGrath and Tamsin O’Neill

House in House by Steffen Welsch Architects - Sheet1
Kitchen ©Shannon McGrath and Tamsin O’Neill

Our House in House follows a paradigm that individual – as structure and as inhabitant – is part of and reflects something bigger. This idea is apparent in this house through its integration into the street, plan layout, building form and the architectural detail. The built outcome of the design process may appear coincidental, even trivial, but it is the result of a sequence of carefully considered design decisions.

The owners of this home desired a unique home offering clearly separate spaces including home office, guest accommodation and library. It needed to express the couple’s contrasting ideas and aesthetic preferences.

We developed the idea of ‘the house in the house’ through the spatial planning of the site, creating an array of spaces arranged along a central spine. Each of the pavilions or houses therefore has discrete functions, and each individual house is linked through the main axis, doubling as both circulation spine and gallery for an extensive art collection.

House in House by Steffen Welsch Architects - Sheet2
Exterior View ©Shannon McGrath and Tamsin O’Neill

The pavilions are punctuated by courtyards, drawing in natural light and ventilation. The largest courtyard frames the limits of the block and is for outdoor entertaining under a pergola. The smaller courtyards feature lush plantings, a retreat for one or two.

This project is developed to passive solar design principles. It has highly insulated walls and ceilings and high-performance doors and windows. It is high in thermal mass. Air conditioning has been limited to the master bedroom; the home enjoys effective cross ventilation via the courtyards.

Solar access to adjoining properties was considered during placement of the pavilions. The living-dining room is zoned off from the accommodation wing through a glazed and door partition.

House in House by Steffen Welsch Architects - Sheet3
Dining Space ©Shannon McGrath and Tamsin O’Neill

‘House in House’ contains five distinct internal pavilions or houses:
1. Working;
2. guest sleeping;
3. occupants sleeping;
4. kitchen/dining; and
5. lounge/library.

And four courtyards or ‘voids’:

1.retreat courtyard;
2. library courtyard;
3. dining courtyard;
4. full width, lounge courtyard.

‘House in House’ is a new build in a streetscape with significant heritage value. Our idea was for the home to be an ‘uneasy fit’ within the street, creating a dialogue, an ongoing easy tension, with its predominantly federation style neighbours and offering new ways of dealing with our living environment.

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