Oliver du Puy designs therapeutic house in Melbourne
Suceeding in its aim to be a spiritual piece of architecture, the ‘Skinny House’ artfully exposes concrete and casts divine light. Yet, there’s nothing like a vitamin C-infused shower to cleanse you of your sins...
In Melbourne, architect Oliver du Puy has slotted a concrete house into a slim piece of land stretching just 4.3m wide. Inspired by Tadao Ando and Patrick Bateman’s New York City apartment, the house is a restrained dwelling designed for a master of minimalism.
Inside, raw concrete walls and floors, skylights, and seamless interior architecture are the perfect quell for the jetlag of the London based owner; a keen meditator and insomniac, with a high stress job as a high frequency currency trader, who desired an house that could also be a remedy to his high intensity life.
Architect du Puy – who cut his teeth at Foster + Partners, Kengo Kuma and Junya Ishigami – started off by thinking about Tadao Ando’s early domestic work in Japan: ‘Much of Ando’s early work, situated in urban areas, responded to chaotic surroundings by turning inward around courtyards protected by enclosing concrete walls, as exemplified by the Kidosaki House,’ he says.
‘Life at the trading desk too often forgets the basics of a healthy, considered life’ – Oliver du Puy
While the adaptive reuse project was confined by its site – a forgotten rear yard of a 19th century Victorian shop – it still finds ways to connect to nature. Interpreting the Japanese concept of ‘shinrin-yoku’ or forest bathing – a practice that links immersion in nature to good health – du Puy designed large skylights and apertures to connect the interiors to ‘time and nature’.
The grid-like concrete façade of the house is a barrier to the world beyond and a commanding monument. Large voids between connected concrete columns cast light onto the exposed concrete surfaces of the interior in an Ando-esque way.
‘The client, an atheist, and keen meditator, wanted a quiet and spiritual piece of architecture. The cross carries a complex iconography associated with sacrifice, atonement, redemption and resurrection. I have tried to evoke other associations such as: primitive ritual, equilibrium, and connection with one’s own senses. Life at the trading desk, too often forgets the basics of a healthy, considered life,’ says du Puy.
To help with his client’s insomnia, du Puy made things as smooth and seamless as possible across the interiors where a simple palette of oak, concrete, stainless steel and Tinos Verde marble was used. Oak joinery makes interior transitions undetectable by moonlight; dimmable strip lighting recesses beneath the pelmets for measured light during moments of restlessness; and a kitchen sink made of a single slab of Carrara Marble is easy on tired eyes. Silence is built into the walls with double glazing and extensive insulation to block out all the sounds of the city.
While smooth surfaces can be wiped clean, and repentance might be granted at the altar of architecture, there’s nothing like a vitamin C-infused shower to cleanse you of your sins at the end of a long week – designed by du Puy to ‘improve overall wellbeing, stabilise mood and sharpen cognition’. §