a ruin wrapping a building

 

Christopher Furminger applied the metaphor of a ruin to extend an existing weatherboard house in a south-western suburb of Brisbane, Australia. The brief was to provide additional spaces, namely a new carport and entry as well as a master bedroom, office, and bootroom. Furminger responded with what he describes as ‘a primitive architectural intention’. The architect retained as much of the old dwelling as possible but wrapped it in a series of monumental, ruin-like masonry walls that delineate the new program. 

 

Furminger explains, ‘The intention was to create a building with a presence all of its own, to loom with physical power, embodying a geometric order with primitive structural force. Heavy brick, tort concrete, pure dark void, containing the endurance of the ruin—reduced to only what lasts.’

furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for 'river house' extension in australia
images by David Chatfield

 

 

Using concrete and brick walls, the architect carved out the new program on the site, including public and private courtyards and new entries into rooms through garden spaces. The idea was to encourage residents to engage with the surrounding climate, landscape, and structure. ‘Here the garden is used as mediator for all interior spaces,’ says Furminger.

 

In addition to the ruin metaphor and the garden as a mediator, the extension was also designed with programmatic flexibility in mind. Separate entries, private courtyards, and provisional services mean the family home can be adapted to become a series of smaller apartments or even provide an independent office once the kids grow up. 

furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for 'river house' extension in australia
the covered carport

 

 

For this project, Furminger was appointed as both architect and builder. He says this approach allowed his team to change and adapt the design in a more organic way. ‘Our way of working was more akin to that of a sculptor, by building the structure and developing some of the details and some of the spaces as we progressed.’

 

For the build, they explored the use of commercial materials and construction techniques and finally specified precast concrete flooring for the roof and tilt-up concrete panels for the walls. A five-brick palette was developed during the excavation of the site. Stones and sands were collected and matched to masonry finishes further linking the site to the building materials. The architect was also able to reduce build costs and have the family continue to live on site by retaining much of the existing building fabric.

furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for 'river house' extension in australia
concrete and brick walls carve out public and private courtyards

furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for 'river house' extension in australia
separate entries mean the house could be adapted in the future

furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for 'river house' extension in australia
view from the new entry

furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for 'river house' extension in australia
tilt-up concrete panels were used for the walls

furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for 'river house' extension in australia
the main garden walls wrap the house

 

 

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furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 
furminger frames courtyards and garden spaces for ‘river house’ extension in australia
 

project info:

 

name: Chelmer River House

location: Chelmer, Queensland, Australia

architecture: Furminger

interior design: Furminger

build: Furminger

site area: 1,255 sqm

building area: 120 sqm

total floor area: 370 sqm

landscaped area: 885 sqm

year: 2021

photography: David Chatfield