In many architectural projects, the work of landscape architects is but a footnote at the end of a design statement. Likewise, the input of architects will often be relegated to the sidelines of a landscape architect’s project description.
Not so with the Towers Road Residence in the Melbourne suburb of Toorak. The monumental site sets a standard for what can be achieved when the inside and outside of a home are developed in simultaneity.
For the project, Woods Marsh Architects worked closely with Taylor Cullity Lethlean (T.C.L.) to create an immersive site whose impact stretched far beyond its façade. Emerging like a monolithic ancient temple from a bed of overgrown vegetation, the striking sculptural qualities of the residence are exaggerated by the dense layers of foliage that conceal it. Just as the building’s impact would be diminished without the richness of its landscape, the wild swathe of garden would not be as engaging without the sharp contrast of its architectural centrepiece.
Unconventional is the first world that comes to mind when describing the building itself. Instead of an archetypal four-walled residence, Woods Marsh opted for a more unpindownable approach to exteriors. The façade is made up of a series of concrete curves that culminate in sharp points and abrupt edges. None of the walls end where you expect them to, making it hard to determine whether there are one, four, or ten of them.
The raw, stone-look residence has the appearance of something aged and forgotten in its overgrown bed. This architectural roughness is intentionally juxtaposed with the vibrant and densely-layered selection of young shrubbery, evergreen, ground coverings and deciduous trees. Sightlines within the garden are extremely limited, and are further obscured by an approach to navigation that prefers winding paths to straight lines.
A sense of discovery is inextricable from any experience in the Towers Road grounds – not least because, in such an overgrown landscape, the tall concrete pillars of the residence come as a surprise to first-time visitors navigating the landscape. Just as the industrial rawness acts as a foil to the wildness of the gardens, the soft and deep foliage creates an anarchic equilibrium with the structure of the architecture.