Compound House

An abode full of drama, angles and curves


Stretching over 8300sqm, the home is perched on a narrow block. The slim site, coupled with local planning restraints, meant March Studio had to “MacGyver” the project to meet the clients’ request for a spacious two-storey home.

For example, sagacious implementation of angular planes forge usable spaces, while a “bunker” dug a metre-and-a-half below street level overcomes local height constraints by sinking the home into the ground.

Rather than keeping up with the Joneses, this project defies the norm and replaces the ubiquitous fence with an open grass ramp that leads to a “floating” structure screened with copper cladding applied in zigzag formation that blurs into the environment. Reflecting and absorbing light, this screening makes the Compound glow. “A copper-screened upper floor allows obscured views of figured shadows within and an angled garage door which, when open, reveals uninterrupted views deep into the block, momentarily offering a tantalising glimpse of the entire site,” adds Rodney.

Large beams and concrete walls sit alongside considered landscaping in a merger between industrial design and domestic bliss. Crazy paving leads to both the garage and the main entry point in another show of angular excellence, the latter entryway cocooned by dual off-form retaining walls. 

Precast insitu walls of concrete act as a base upon which six oversized trusses were placed to uphold the rectangular pavilion. “The Compound is resilient, resembling a series of stacked elements opposed to the walls and rooflines of a traditional house,” says Rodney.

The sinking of the building along the southern boundary pours north light into the home and informs a fence bound by concrete retaining walls. Concrete floors and timber ceilings are found in the kitchen, dining and living area. Again, the steel trusses take centre stage as they emphasise the voluminous space.

The upstairs bedrooms are warm and interesting. Protected by copper screening applied in an irregular fashion to mimic bamboo blinds, warm timber tones and neutral furnishings maintain a serene atmosphere. A timber-clad corridor with an angled southern wall connects the bedrooms with the guest rooms and reinforces the bunker theme.

Embankment batter, concrete retaining walls, triangular trusses and copper ribbons pay homage to the owner’s industrial background. Steel was specifically important, not only as a building material, but as a study in domestic steel construction. “Steel is used throughout the building in compression and tension to balance and project volumes and members into space,” outlines Rodney. “The house is defined by its six oversized BlueScope steel trusses, which create a split between the upper floor and the lower concrete base, separating the two volumes and making the upper floor appear to float above.” This stacking or “engineered gymnastics” celebrates the strength and inherent beauty of steel; the black steel staircase and rotating steel bookcase are prime examples.

Like a good bottle of Grange, this project will improve with age. It will take on floral notes thanks to the catenary wires incorporated into the trusses where deciduous vines can one day dominate. The copper screening will patina and the landscaping will flourish.

Compound House is moody without appearing gloomy. It’s industrial without feeling sterile. And it’s private without forsaking street appeal. Rodney puts it best when he says: “The Compound House is an adventurous project, averting style in lieu of an exploration into light and shadow, form and texture, order and chaos, the rational and the random.”