Achieving the right balance of natural daylight, fresh air, privacy, and temperature regulation in a home is often a tricky business that involves a lot of different factors. One residence’s sweet spot will differ from another’s depending on things like climate, sun exposure, adjacency to neighbors and busy streets, and available garden space. For instance, you might envision easy access to your garden or views from a particular angle, but you don’t want the harsh mid-afternoon sun beating down into your living area through generously-sized windows. How is it that architects are able to create spaces that feel “just right” and make their clients ultimately feel like Goldilocks?
One simple and highly effective workaround is the use of transitional indoor/outdoor areas that feature lots of operable windows or walls that open wide on demand. These “rooms” can be fully enclosed when you want to keep them cool and shady or transformed into patios or verandas when you want to brighten them up and let in a breeze. For a recent renovation project in Australia’s Barrington heritage area, Matt Gibson Architecture + Design put an unusual and elegant spin on the standard transitional space.
The architects attached a modern black volume to the rear of a traditional brick villa, continuing the addition’s wooden floor and ceiling right out into the yard. There are no walls to close off this new dining and lounge area, which projects out over the grass. Instead, the space has been equipped with a set of massive, two-story-tall woven steel mesh curtains that filter out sunlight, limit glare from the west-facing direction, and provide privacy when desired. The free-flowing nature of these curtains creates a sense of movement and fluidity that contrasts with the solid brick structure.
The translucent “buffer” enclosed by the mesh curtains makes use of the yard’s extra square footage and helps regulate the temperature inside the rest of the villa. The curtain also functions as a rain screen, and unlike conventional textiles, it won’t ever fade, get dirty, or encourage the growth of mildew.
Drawing inspiration from the traditional Japanese “hiro-en,” or deep veranda, the architects created a seamless series of spaces that bleed into one another and form a threshold between inside and out. Discreet walls can be closed to secure the innermost spaces or left open to make the entire home feel much larger. Now, these living areas can be sheltered from the sun in the summer or bathed in light during the winter for additional warmth.
The architects explain: “The contemporary addition challenges the concept of building low quality, replica additions that attach themselves to the heritage fabric and in effect compromise, confuse, and diminish the integrity of the original. The intervention here is instead contemporary and interactive, activating and opening up the compartmentalized interior to previously under-utilized green space, and at the same time preserving and augmenting the cultural significance of the original building. Spaces and eras are distinguishable, yet able to bleed into each other, allowing subtle connectivity. Each space, whilst unique, continues a dialogue that is integral to the story of the whole.”