The basement of a house is a space generally reserved for the cellar or for storage. Located at ground level, it is usually semi-permeable, partially open to the outside, often windowless and enveloped by the habitable space above.
“In Brisbane, ‘building under’ is often undertaken thoughtlessly, resulting in poor quality spaces with little perspective and little light,” said Kieron Gait, principal of Kieron Gait Architects.
When the architect was approached to transform an existing Queenslander, traditional triple-gabled house needed to accommodate a growing family, Gait looked to this conventionally underused “underutilized space” as a focal point. natural start.
“This project aims to demonstrate how, with a little care and attention, the basement can provide enjoyment and connection to its surroundings,” he said.
Queensland’s post-war wooden houses are lightweight and therefore easy to lift and move. Raising the house and setting it back 4.5 meters allowed the house more light and height to appreciate a new north-facing aspect and express the usually hidden structure of the basement.
Located on a sloping site down to the street, the rear of the site occupied the best position for view and light. “Because the site was sloping at the back of what was the backyard, the basement never got any sun, had little outlook and was freezing in the winter,” Gait said.
The basement was created from a polished concrete slab, on which the house is perched on steel poles. The house is not air-conditioned; it uses cross ventilation, aided by slatted edges, and the thermal mass of the concrete floor to create a consistently comfortable space to inhabit year-round.
Dan Young Landscape Architecture’s landscaping celebrates local flora, with lush bromeliads, tropical philodendrons, and elephant ears, strategically planted to provide privacy for street-level living spaces.
The living level contains a series of connected yet separate spaces, each with its own character and outlook, yet unified by the rhythm of the exposed structure above. Gait said he was particularly pleased with the outcome of the sunken bay window that overlooks the detailed landscape and a shaded pergola space just beyond.
“Even though it’s physically connected to the adjacent kitchen and dining room, it has its own space character and connection to the garden that other spaces don’t have,” Gait said. “Although it is an open space, there are different hierarchies of space inside. You can feel like you’re in your own part of the house, even when you’re only ten feet away from someone else.
Upstairs, the original Queenslander becomes a private retreat, housing the bedrooms for the family of six. Although a bold intervention, parts of the renovation have been sympathetic in their approach, with the original house remaining relatively unchanged.
“We treated the existing house almost like an artifact,” Gait explained. “The new work has its own language and the existing one is left as it is; so when you walk through the house and up the stairs you have the speckled gumwood material going up the stairs and into what would have been the “good room” in the middle of the house, which is left in its own temper.
By making the whole house livable, Gait forged a connection to the garden that did not exist before. “We wanted to create spaces that belonged in the landscape rather than in the house,” Gait said. “Children can roll over without supervision. This is a home for a growing family.