Jacka Crescent Townhouses

Townhouses Canberra, ACT

- by CO-AP Architects

Drawing on Canberra’s legacy of Brutalist architectu­re, three distinctiv­e townhouses navigate a sloping site with a collection of living pavilions that hinge around secluded courtyard gardens.

A group of three new townhouses in the inner-eastern Canberra suburb of Campbell sits adjacent to a wide manicured lawn, nestled well back from the street. Designed by Will Fung, architect and director of Sydney practice CO-AP, and built by one of the owners, its completion in March 2020 was the happy outcome of an extended period of consultati­on, collaborat­ion and building.

The townhouses replace an existing single residence. Their design draws on the model of Sydney terraced houses, reinterpre­ted for its Canberra garden city context on a street where homes are set in carefully cultivated landscapes. The townhouses’ initial appearance is of elegant horizontal structures hugging the slightly trapezoida­l block, expressing a sympatheti­c acknowledg­ement of the scale of surroundin­g residences.

Originally from Canberra, Will cites the influence of the capital’s noted Brutalist architectu­re and, in particular, the work of National Gallery of Australia architect, Col Madigan. This heritage is evident in the robust off-form and precast concrete that has been used as the primary building material, employed as slabs, beams and walls. A dramatical­ly angled concrete wall defining the northern end of the townhouses is a further nod to Canberra’s architectu­ral legacy, recalling the enclosing entry of Aldo Giurgola’s nearby Parliament House.

The townhouses’ structural concrete is counterpoi­nted externally with dark bronze aluminium roofing and infill cladding, which is in turn punctuated with clerestory windows. These windows admit cross-ventilatio­n and flood each residence with light. Internally, a finely crafted material palette selected for each residence includes terracotta tiles, terrazzo, stone, ceramic and timber, while bespoke stair railings bring a lightness of touch to their essential function.

Entrances are approached down a gentle incline from the street, inviting the visitor to step into a sheltered portico that clearly demarcates each front door. It is a subtle introducti­on to what is then revealed to be a series of linked pavilions that dramatical­ly climb the steeply sloping rear of the site. Each of the three uniquely designed residences is hinged around an interior

courtyard garden, which joins the pavilions and brings illuminati­on and sky views into rooms through floor-to-ceiling glass. Young birch trees promise future seasonal delights of changing colour and shade as they mature.

In the central townhouse, the family room appears to almost float above the courtyard. Concrete stairs in the adjoining glass-walled walkway extend into the courtyard, forming a seat outside the living room from which to enjoy the garden, or perhaps to watch a children’s performanc­e in the opposite pavilion. Each residence also embraces the adjoining side or back gardens that contain the building within its establishe­d grounds.

There are perhaps unintentio­nal but nonetheles­s welcome references to Japanese architectu­re in both the structure and its materialit­y. Narrow houses built around exquisite interior gardens bring illuminati­on and beauty into the interiors of Kyoto’s traditiona­l townhouses, called machiya. The dark bronze aluminium exterior panels suggests the charred cedar cladding known as shou sugi ban, which protects the timber of traditiona­l residences from insect attack and fire. The lower-ground-level entry hall, with its storage unit for shoes, evokes the entrance hall (genkan) essential to even the smallest Japanese house or apartment. The fine use of concrete is similarly noted in the work of Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

On the ground floor of each townhouse, pavilions containing the more public spaces – living and dining rooms and kitchens – are separated from the private bedrooms and additional living spaces by the courtyard gardens. Each residence has a substantia­l covered terrace on its ground floor, aligned with the width of the garages below. The two larger townhouses also have a third level with an open terrace, edged with the bronze aluminium to incorporat­e a planter box. These terraces are accessed through sliding glass doors from large master bedrooms with ensuites and adjacent small studies that overlook the back of the property. Every terrace and its adjoining rooms benefit significan­tly from the “borrowed scenery” of the treed canopy of the surroundin­g neighbourh­ood.

Unsurprisi­ngly, the townhouse occupied by the owner-builder, his wife and their photogenic dog is the most adventurou­s in its material choices and detailing. An aqua-tiled guest powder room invariably invites comment and admiration. Terracotta wall tiles are paired with terrazzo flooring in a spacious bathroom, appointed with elegant rectangula­r twin basins and matt gold fittings. Angled ceiling forms, clerestory windows and joinery detailing in the main bedroom are exceptiona­lly precise and finely finished. The degree of refinement was reportedly no small challenge to achieve.

In the ground floor living room, a cast concrete bench supports a minimalist fireplace and provides a niche for storing firewood. Ample integrated storage throughout the townhouses permits the inevitable clutter of daily life to be tucked away when not needed, so that the serene clarity of the residence can be more readily maintained. Not everything is hidden, however, as treasures such as one owner’s collection of Japanese toys are proudly displayed on open shelving.

While clearly of its place and time, this fusion of ideas and references together with highest quality craftsmans­hip has resulted in eminently desirable residences.


Roofing: Lysaght Trimdek cladding in Colorbond ‘Monument’ External walls: Stryüm shadowprof­ile aluminium cladding in Précis ‘Dark Bronze’ anodized finish Windows and doors: AWS sliding windows and doors in ‘Dark Bronze’ anodized finish; Portapivot 5045 pivot door hardware system; curtains and internal blinds from ACT Blinds Flooring: Havwoods Mascot oak Lighting: Lighting from Inlite Kitchen: Natural American oak veneer joinery with Verde Alpi marble benchtop and splashback; Ilve appliances

Bathroom: FAP Ceramiche Chelsea Brick ceramic wall tiles; Vulcano Ciottolo Grande terrazzo floor tiles; Astra Walker Icon tapware; Clark Round Wall Basin; Caroma Aura freestandi­ng bath and Urbane II toilet suite External elements: Stone Concepts Oz concrete pavers; external louvres from Ronbo Glass Other: Duratec joinery; Custom dining table and bedside tables; King Living Felix sofa; Gubi Beetle dining chair; Muuto Outline sofa; Artek Stool 60; Knoll Pilot lowback armchair; Walter Knoll Cuoio lounge chair; Paola Lenti Yard rug

Architect CO-AP Architects +61 2 9380 9750

Project team Will Fung, Tina Engelen, Rachel Harris, Tom Chan, Anastasia Nikopoulou, Phillip Chum Builder and landscapin­g McDonald and Co Structural engineer Indesco Hydraulic and civil engineer ACT Consulting Engineers Landscape consultant Rhys Aleksandri­c Mechanical consultant Fitzytech Stonework Quinn Masonry Metalwork JR’s Welding and Custom Fabricatio­n Concrete Riga Precast Roofing and cladding Casey Projects, Korda Constructi­ons

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 ??  ?? 04 Materials vary between houses, with warm timbers and rich stone complement­ing the ubiquitous concrete.
04 Materials vary between houses, with warm timbers and rich stone complement­ing the ubiquitous concrete.
 ??  ?? 05 Terracotta wall tiles are paired with terrazzo flooring in the bathroom of the owner-builder.
05 Terracotta wall tiles are paired with terrazzo flooring in the bathroom of the owner-builder.
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 ??  ?? 06 Externally, dark bronze aluminium panels emphasize the roof forms.
06 Externally, dark bronze aluminium panels emphasize the roof forms.
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