Defying the status quo, this uniquely positioned family home by FIGR champions the robust versatility of brick while leaning into its uniquely landscaped surrounds.
Connection is a word that founding director Adi Atic and director Michael Artemenko of FIGR frequently use to describe this harmoniously resolved brick home. Pushing the usual thresholds of residential typology, Ha Ha Haus has become a design benchmark for redefining the traditional boundaries between landscape and home.
In this exclusive film series in partnership with Brickworks, architects Adi and Michael take us on a private tour through Ha Ha Haus. Together they unveil the pavilion-like appeal of this atypical home and how its mix of honest materials presents a striking presence, with a point of interest at every turn.
In partnership with Brickworks
Whether undertaking an extension, a renovation, or a new build, Melbourne-based practice FIGR applies their expertise across multiple disciplines. ‘Grounded in discovery’ FIGR harnesses a holistic and collaborative approach to design that allows their team of architects and designers to shape spaces in such a way that they continually traverse the boundaries of form, function, and flow – all through the important lens of biophilia and sustainability.
With a contemporary profile of projects under their belts, this exploratory methodology established by Adi and Michael led them to take on Ha Ha Haus. Nestled in Melbourne’s leafy Alphington neighbourhood, where front yard fences are a uniquely rare sight, this home aims to give back to the local streetscape and the family who lives within its walls in more ways than one.
The client’s brief was loose; while they were open to ‘blue sky’ thinking the project still needed to meet the core functions of a close-knit family home and cater to frequent overseas visitors, intergenerational living, and, at times, short-term occupancy. The resulting, large single-storey house not only addresses the need for the ‘aging-in-place’ but also a home that responds to its sloping site while embracing its natural surroundings.
Paramount to its biophilic focus, Ha Ha Haus reflects a recessed landscape element. Instead of building a fence around the front of the property, FIGR has entrenched the home and built-up a landscaped mound that encloses the front. In a collaborative move alongside landscape design studio MUD Office, this reversed take on a traditional sunken ‘ha-ha’ landscape element offers its occupants privacy while maintaining evergreen views of the native garden outside. “We’ve inverted the ha-ha into a reverse ha-ha where we’ve created a landscape mound to give an outlook to the indoor living spaces and create an attractive public realm,” Adi says.
“Brick is a very versatile material that can be applied in many ways. We wanted this material to really become the hero of the project. It’s not just on the walls it also extends internally. It creates a holistic approach to the space.”
– FIGR Founding Director Adi Atic
Wrapped in charred Australian blackbutt timber, which casts a veil over the home, Ha Ha Haus first appears like a dark bunker beyond the landscaping. On closer inspection, the black silhouette of the house eases into the background. As you enter through the front gate, the appearance of off-white bricks creates an unexpected and immediate sense of arrival.
The material palette of this home is largely natural and tonal and has been intentionally paired back to three fundamental finishes, which were locally sourced to reduce carbon emissions, and were chosen for their richness, robustness, longevity, and low maintenance characteristics. Offering a visual celebration of contrasting materials against the charred timber exterior and natural timber flooring inside, the La Paloma bricks in Miro from Brickworks were selected for their grounding aesthetic appeal, enduring strength, and sustainable qualities – creating a diffusing respite from the outside world.
“Brick is a very versatile material that can be applied in many ways. We wanted this material to become the hero of the project. It’s not just on the walls. It also extends internally, creating a holistic approach to the space,” Adi explains. The humble, often suburban-like brick material takes on a whole new meaning within the Ha Ha Haus project, and FIGR have crafted a seamless transition between outside and in. The white La Paloma brick extends beyond its welcoming function at the front of the home to guide guests through to the courtyard.
The floorplan is focused on practical, family-orientated spaces enveloped around a central courtyard to ensure every space connects to the seasonal elements. “The doughnut-like floorplan allows for the home to be completely opened up, and instead of giving us blank dead-ends, it gives us access to natural light and cross-ventilation,” Michael says.
The status quo doesn’t apply here. There’s no traditional front or backyard, and the home has been designed from back to front. “Wherever you are in the house, you’re always looking at landscaping or connected to landscaping,” Michael adds.
“What I’m proud of in this project is that we have been able to flip it on its head and push the boundaries on how we treat the positioning and sighting of the house while still providing privacy and great amenity alongside the landscape,” Adi says.