Connecting to the Leaves – Treetop House by Ben Callery Architects
Words by Anthony Richardson
A young family of five wanted a home that could foster a connection not only between themselves but also the leafy surrounds. The clients, Liz and Andrew, approached Ben Callery Architects after falling in love with the work he did at Zen Architects. “We loved the work Ben had been involved in at Zen architects and really wanted to support someone local in Northcote and going out on their own.” Liz and Andrew explain, “An architect who lives locally to the build can never be underestimated.”Wanting to capture views of the trees on their back fence, they also wanted a home that was light and bright and could provide enough space and retreat for their family. This type of brief sparked an interest in Ben for biophilic architecture, which are buildings which actively encourage a desire for people to connect with the natural environment.
“This is where we see the next level of sustainable design.” Ben Callery, the architect says, “Beyond practical passive solar techniques, active engagement and sustainable technology, we seek to create deeper human connection and understanding of the natural environment and our place within it.”
Although Ben designed active moments of engagement, through operable windows and blinds which Liz and Andrew can manipulate in response to the sun and breeze. And on a more passive level, the courtyard layout allows warm winter sun into the living areas, and a raised ceiling in the kitchen captures even more northern sun.
The home has been designed to really frame the view of the trees towards the back, as a way to foster a connection with nature. The kitchen’s ceiling height allows for expansive windows, as well as clerestory windows which provide further glimpses of the sky, trees and the roof deck. It’s no surprise that the kitchen and living area is one of the Liz and Andrew’s favourite spots in the house. “The kitchen and lounge area have such amazing views to the treetops and it is a sight that we will never tire of,” They explain, “Standing at the kitchen sink and watching the kids play in the pool surrounded by such beautiful greenery is pretty wonderful.”
The windows and views also seem to be a reoccurring theme, whether it’s friends coming to visit, with many exclaiming how great the view to the trees is, or just being drawn to them from the front door. When you hop up on the roof deck, the view gets even better. “Some have said the view from the roof deck is one of the best views they have seen in Northcote as it captures rooftops, treetops, gardens and even city views – we agree!”
While the kitchen does have high ceilings, Ben designed spaces with lower ceilings to provide refuge. “By deliberate contrast, the lower ceilings in these adjacent spaces provide refuge - the safety and coziness that humans instinctively desire.” These spaces also allow family members to pursue their own interests separately, but remain connected.
Liz and Andrew, the clients, noticed a huge difference living in this home compared to previous places. “We have never lived with such ease, space and light and I think the home lifts the mood of everyone.” Liz explains, “Coming home from an outing or a holiday is such a pleasure.” And who can blame them? The home showcases the effect that biophilic design can have, and the natural urge we have to connect with nature.
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