Mt Eliza House

- by Bird de la Coeur Architects

Vanessa Bird of Bird de la Coeur Architects describes her first project as a testing ground for multi-generation­al living.

When a family walked into the office of Bird de la Coeur Architects twenty years ago and asked for a home that three generation­s could cohabit, directors Vanessa Bird and Neil de la Coeur relished the opportunit­y to tap into their fond memories of share house living.

Neil de la Coeur and I were immediatel­y impressed by the group of four people who walked into our office in 2000.

You know straight away when the fit is right and they quickly became our clients. June, her two daughters and her son-in-law had pooled their money to commission a house. Their quiet resolve to live as three generation­s together under one roof never wavered, and despite our inexperien­ce, neither did their confidence in us. While the idea of housing an extended family isn’t new, the vast majority of Australian housing isn’t built for this purpose, so they quickly realized they needed an architect.

We were as interested then as we are now in shared space and how people might live comfortabl­y together.

Neil and I are part of the generation who went to university before gentrifica­tion made the shared, inner-city, four-tofive-bedroom student house for $150 per week a thing of the past. We knew well the joys and chaos of shared living. At Mt Eliza House, it was our job to design out the bad bits. We quickly found solutions for the points of frustratio­n, like having only one light-filled and spacious main bedroom alongside a series of smaller rooms, and having to queue for the single shower.

Not only were our clients somewhat extraordin­ary, but so too was their clifftop site. It comprised half an acre of north-facing garden, carved off from a neighbouri­ng estate, above Daveys Bay on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, with views back towards Melbourne. We couldn’t believe our luck.

After listening carefully to our clients, and thoroughly analyzing the site conditions, we arrived at a courtyard plan. The main wing cranks to face due north while the pool makes up the fourth side of the quadrangle. The wings are almost like neighbouri­ng buildings set around a protected central garden, leaving the bedrooms separate from one another. Each person also has their own specialint­erest room (a library, a darkroom, a studio) within their wing. At the time, Neil and I were living in an inner-city worker’s cottage and calculated that Emma and Patrick’s bedroom was as far away from June’s as we were from a house nine doors away.

While the design of Mt Eliza House is very much about shared living, with the best location on the site given to the large living, dining and kitchen area, it is also very much about privacy. Throughout, the house shifts from

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 ??  ?? 01 Located on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Mt Eliza House is arranged in a courtyard plan, with the main shared living wing cranked to face due north.
01 Located on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Mt Eliza House is arranged in a courtyard plan, with the main shared living wing cranked to face due north.

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