Ha Architecture take a heritage-listed bungalow in Melbourne’s east and convert it into a minimalist oasis centred around a Japanese-inspired courtyard.
“It is the sensory experiences of the courtyard that best exemplify the actualisation of the clients’ vision; the sound of the bamboo in the breeze; the trickling of running water; the temporal experience as light filters through the battens.” Ha Architecture principal Nick Harding’s description of Courtyard House could be mistaken as a retreat somewhere in the Japanese countryside when in fact, it’s located in Melbourne’s leafy suburb of Hawthorn. The project sees the reconfiguring of an existing one-storey home into a series of breathable, interconnected spaces designed for relaxed living.
The brief for Courtyard House specified an “idyllic, minimalist sanctuary”. There was to be abundant natural light, a palpable connection to nature, and an unyielding sense of refuge. This aspiration was manifested through a zen-like courtyard, where the rest of the home is centred; both physically and spiritually. In the middle of the courtyard stands two Japanese Maple trees: symbols of balance and peace. The planning maximises views of the courtyard through operable timber screens and cladding, which can be adjusted for changing light and climatic conditions.
On the south side of the courtyard lies an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area. Bamboo trees form a leafy backdrop to these spaces and maintain the thread of Japanese native plants. The west side blissfully combines focus and recovery with a study-meets-yoga-studio, which connects to an onsen-style bathroom. Finally, on the north side lies a home office, a primary bedroom, and an ensuite that looks out onto a private garden.
Courtyard House was born out of a collaboration between Ha Architecture and Kihara Landscapes. Kihara have employed traditional Japanese ‘dry garden’ techniques, consisting of beds of raked gravel interspersed with smooth stones, patches of shrubs and native trees. The sounds and sights emitted by these outdoor spaces – the bamboo in the breeze; the trickling of running water; the temporal experience as light filters through the battens – rally to create a resounding sense of tranquillity.
“Distilled down to its most earnest and functional construction, Courtyard House benefits from the clients’ investment in design for longevity,” Nick says; it incorporates zen principles to advocate a return to nature and considers the impact of a space on our overall being.