Living in harmony with the cycles of nature – from day to night, and from season to season – has benefits for health and wellbeing. Light House, designed by LAYAN, is an alteration and addition to a Victorian worker’s cottage in Melbourne that has a façade screen that enables the occupants to closely observe and live in harmony the rhythms of nature. “The joy that comes from the way the light is filtered through the screen comes from our human desire to make sense of the natural world,” says the client. “Over time [one is] able to instinctively feel the time of day and year through the changes of light and shade.”
The screen was a solution to resolving the challenges of a north-facing second storey on an inner-suburban house: “How to maximise natural light whilst dealing with overlooking and privacy issues,” says LAYAN Director, Johannes Hart. “Vertical blades are commonly the solution, but from the first design workshop, we wanted to explore other possibilities.” The client is a director of lighting design company The Flaming Beacon, and their longstanding professional relationship with LAYAN gave rise to the innovative, collaborative response.
“The screen masks the direct view to the outside world and challenges the occupants to interpret the outside world via the way the shadows morph in and out of focus and move over internal surfaces.”
The client wanted to create more living space for their family and to forge a stronger connection with nature. LAYAN designed a single-storey extension that wraps around a central courtyard garden to bring natural light and ventilation into the new kitchen, dining, living and studio. A new second storey, set back from the front of the original cottage, now accommodates the master bedroom and ensuite, with the custom screen providing sun shading and privacy along the north-facing windows. “The method to control direct sunlight needed to double as the device that would limit sight lines. However for the client, as a lighting designer, this screen could provide a further opportunity to modulate the character of natural light throughout the year, to create a constantly changing play of shadows and textures and to become the primary illuminated surface at night, for the internal spaces,” says Johannes.
A new second storey now accommodates the master bedroom and ensuite, with the custom screen providing sun shading and privacy along the north-facing windows.
The form of the screen is inspired by the work of sculpture Erwin Hauer and his interest in anticlastic surfaces. “Creating the desired modulation relied on coming up with a repeatable 3D geometric object that was in two planes, lightweight and cost effective,” the client explains. The screen comprises 907 back-to-back translucent convex discs made of ultraviolet stabilised polyethylene and mounted on stainless steel rotatable tubes. Each disc contains a single amber LED (with a wavelength in harmony with our circadian rhythm) and the screen is programmed to only come on between dusk and 10:30pm, as long as the room is occupied.
“The screen masks the direct view to the outside world and challenges the occupants to interpret the outside world via the way the shadows morph in and out of focus and move over internal surfaces,” says the client. “When the sun is low in the sky, adjacent trees provide additional filtering, distorting the shadows and reminding the inhabitants of the season. The presence of wind via the rotation of the discs is understood in the sharpness of the shadows.” The pared-back and natural material palette – American Oak in the bedroom and travertine tiles in the bathroom – also allows ever-changing light to be the hero of the space. “The dynamic play of shadows and light provides a satisfying biological connection to the outside world,” the client explains.
Downstairs, the living spaces all have a view to the outside with floor-to-ceiling glazing around the central courtyard, a winter garden behind the rear wall of the living area, and skylights over the living area, dining table and stairwell. American oak joinery and flooring has warmth and a golden glow when hit with natural light, and the custom terrazzo flooring and white glazed brick walls blur the boundaries of inside and out. There is also a view of the upper-storey screen, providing ambient light to the ground-floor living spaces in the evening.
“The decorative and functional screen is a beautiful solution to a common design challenge. It is dynamic, both passive and active, and transforms each space through the manipulation of light with an experiential quality,” says Johannes.
Photography by Peter Bennetts
Ligne Roset ‘Togo’ sectional sofa in cognac leather (vintage and reupholstered)
Fog & Mørup ‘Nova’ hanging lamp (vintage)
Ariake ‘Paperwood’ coffee table
Framac swivel chairs in orange velour (vintage)
The Flaming Beacon custom pendant light in kitchen, manufactured by Rock Martin
The Flaming Beacon custom table lamp in lounge room, manufactured by Js-lamp.
Immergas gas-heated hydronic underslab heating system
Immergas gas-heated hydronic panel heating system
Cheminees Philippe single-fronted wood fireplace ‘Radiant 600 Primo’
Mitsubishi reverse cycle split system air conditioner ‘MSZ-EF 3.5kW’
Knauf Earthwool FloorShield underfloor batt
Knauf Earthwool internal wall batt
Knauf Earthwool ceiling batt
Tongue n Groove engineered floorboards 189mm wide ‘Bistre’
Vic Mix terrazzo flooring ‘Bronzed stone ash’
Attila’s Natural Stone unfilled travertine tiles ‘Loranda vein cut’ Austral ‘La Paloma’ bricks 290mm x 110mm x 50mm ‘Miro’
Lysaght ‘Klip-Lok’ 700 high-strength roof sheeting ‘Zincalume’
“The joy that comes from the way the light is filtered through the screen comes from our human desire to make sense of the natural world.”
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Tags: Architecture, Ariake, Austral Bricks, Australian Residential Architecture, design, Erwin Hauer, family home, Framac, hydronic panel heating, hydronic underfloor heating, Knauf Earthwool, LAYAN, lighting, ligne roset togo, Lysaght, Melbourne, Peter Bennetts, rebecca gross, residential, terrazzo, The Flaming Beacon, Tongue n Groove, Travertine, worker’s cottage, zincalume