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The Home Stretch

Take everything you know about the standard living-room addition and turn it on its head. Now you get the idea behind this sleek, dramatically cantilevered architectural wonder.

May 2010 Issue

The design world has seen its share of daredevil cantilevers lately—Rem Koolhaas' CCTV building in China, Jean Nouvel's Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis—but to install one in a suburban back yard takes guts. Disregarding the neighbors' early misgivings, the architects at the Australian firm Jackson Clements Burrows went ahead with this showstopping 1,700-square-foot extension to what was once a 1,000-square-foot Edwardian-style home outside Melbourne. And the gamble paid off. "There's always that paranoia initially, not to mention a struggle with the extent to which you can defy gravity," says partner Tim Jackson.

For the architects, known for their ability to maximize space with glass balconies and creative façades, the aerial scheme was a way to sidestep a building code that restricted how close they could get to the property's edge. And for the clients—two doctors with three young children—it was a way to nearly triple the indoor acreage without sacrificing the lawn. The cantilevered structure also provides shade and shelter, welcome features for the region's blazing summers and wet winters: "It has a veranda effect, extending our living room out into the garden, which we hadn't really appreciated," says owner Georgie Pettigrew. For additional cooling, the exterior is accented with perforated window shutters that filter the sunlight. When they're closed, the owners can see out but no one can see in, a feature that inspired a new name for the house: Trojan.

Though the wood paneling helps to unify the extension visually, a split personality is part of the project's appeal. With the original early-20th-century house left almost fully intact, it's business up front and party in back—viewing the home from the street, you'd hardly know that the architects had been there. Because the supports for the cantilevered floor could be planted right into the original living foundation, there was no need to rip up the addition's space—making for a relatively sawdust-free experience that anyone who has renovated a home can envy.

THE HANGOVER: Although the bedrooms upstairs are shuttered for privacy, the ground-floor spaces can be opened almost entirely to the back yard.

Photographs by Emma Cross/Courtesy of Jackson Clements Burrows Pty Ltd Architects.
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