Kensington Lighthouse by Tandem Design Studio


Tandem Design Studio of Melbourne have completed a house with a wooden interior in Melbourne, Australia.

Called Kensington Lighthouse, the building is located on a long narrow plot.

It consists of two volumes clad in corrugated metal and connected by a central courtyard, all supported over a concrete base.

Light from windows running along the top of one side is reflected by plywood panels covering the opposite interior wall, which curves inwards to meet the ceiling.

Photographs are by Sonia Mangiapane.

Here's some more information from


“The Kensington Lighthouse is situated on a 160m2 strip of land between a former factory and its kitchen in a dense, mixed-use inner city context.

To the north, the neighbouring house presents a 4m high wall overshadowing the site.

North facing sunshells were created to capture and reflect natural light; articulated by exposed timber portal frames lined with veneered plywood panels.

On the exterior, the shells were clad in a lightweight metal skin of dark grey and deep blue corrugated metal; creating the roof and south façade.

On the north, west and east patterns of double glazed glass and translucent polycarbonate panels frame views and admit light while preserving privacy - the translucent skin capturing shadows of nearby trees, the variance of clouds passing overhead and filtering light to the interior.

The house is made from two sunshells connected around a courtyard - with a solitary coral bark maple - by a rectangular timber lined volume running the length of the north boundary.

Floating above a polished concrete platform; the west sunshell shelters entry, lounge, kitchen, double height dining space on the lower level - and study, guest bed and bathroom on the mezzanine.

The east sunshell; across the courtyard and on a mid-level spanning between V-column and north boundary wall; houses the master bedroom and en suite. Below is a double carport accessed from the rear lane.

Concertina doors open from the master bedroom and dining room across the courtyard; creating a series of continuously linked open platforms in summer.

To the west; 3 pivot doors connect the lounge to the front garden while creating privacy from the street.

Opening windows - on the lower, southern façade of the sunshells, and the upper northern glazed face - regulate naturally occurring ventilation across the shells; and combine with thermal mass of the heated concrete slab to control temperature and ventilation.”

Project title: Kensington Lighthouse
Location: Kensington, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Architects: Tandem Design Studio

Posted on Sunday November 15th 2009 at 11:00 pm by Ruth Hynes. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Nucci

    i like it! :)

  • Archi Wannabe

    What a clean, beautiful design! I would do anything to see it in person! I love it :-)

  • Martin

    this looks rather familiar…

    Of course one has to expect people to be ‘inspired’ by great ideas…
    even so, such blatant similarity in form, structure and materiality is pushing it bit…
    Hang on a minute. The name too?!
    What on earth are Tandem thinking?
    They may be the other side of the planet, but did they really think this would go un-noticed?

  • roman kralya

    it reminds me some japanese theme…

  • Chris

    Absolutely beautiful use of structure and materials.

  • Matthias

    @Martin – so they didn’t spend their time on researching what has already been done and restraining from it?
    Let’s assume that if architects spend more time on design rather than on comparing ourselves to our colleagues = our clients will get a better product in the end even if we don’t get all the publicity.
    I like it. I don’t care how many times it’s been done before.

  • LOW

    That’s as gorgeous as it gets

  • Smart design, but I guess the cost per square meter is high.

  • @Mathias – in the end you are right, what matters are the clients. I agree with Martin though, Tandem is promoting this like it is their brain child (or at least Dezeen is). There is a difference between building upon something and ripping it off.

    Also, if there is never any comparison between colleagues how does a client know to choose you in the first place, justifies price variances, and so forth? I often compare myself to my colleagues (furniture) not on a negative note but to educate a person on what I have to offer. It’s what makes me a designer and able to design something that holds my mark.

    There is a line that divides ripping off and building upon ideas that I feel is often crossed. With that said i do like it and love the interior. Nice use of woods and grain direction to keep the interior lighter and hold a visual interest.

  • Tim

    @martin – research for this project were Japanese precedents and the design was completed in 2006; the building finished in 2008. Your assertion we ripped off another architect is pretty gross – suggesting people in different places operating with the same problems cannot arrive at similar solutions. You might notice the long section and elevations are completely different to your cited source projects – but I guess you didn’t bother looking that far. And the name? It’s ours too.

  • dominique

    sean, very well said. I couldn’t agree with you anymore.

  • silicon m

    Clever designs are usually the ones that seem to make
    the whole project look easy, simple and straight forward.
    However a lot of time and intellectual rigor I am sure has
    gone into this beautiful and well detail success story.

    The details alone are testimony to their success.

    Well done and please keep on providing excellent architecture
    with such passion as this project envelops to your clients.

    silicon m

  • Gary

    Barns have been built this way for several decades if not much longer
    . No one ripped off anyones design.

  • hacedeca

    They made everything so right. And it looks beautiful.

    But what is this in the end? The word that comes into my mind is: Favela :-(

  • Martin

    @Tim – I’m not suggesting it’s a carbon copy of Sheppard Robson’s ‘lighthouse’ (completed june 2007).. and, if it wasn’t for the name I perhaps wouldn’t have felt so compelled to comment as i did.

    If the similarities between the 2 projects are indeed purely coincidental then I am truely fascinated by them.

  • justin


    I think your design is more contextual and more effective in it’s setting than that of Sheppard Robson. It seems to me that your form was derived by site much more than his which seems (from the pictures) to be plunked down in a rural or suburban context. I want to congratulate you on a beautiful design that plays with light, space, and place in a way that all architects should respect.

  • Nothing of me is original.
    I am the combined effort of everybody I’ve ever known.
    – Chuck Palahnuik

    This building form is not unique or autonomous, as most building forms are not. I think we need to be a little more restrained when making claims like “blatant similarity” that won’t “go unnoticed.”

  • Lucy Liu

    # Martin Says:
    “this looks rather familiar…,

    Of course one has to expect people to be ‘inspired’ by great ideas…
    even so, such blatant similarity in form, structure and materiality is pushing it bit…
    Hang on a minute. The name too?!
    What on earth are Tandem thinking?
    They may be the other side of the planet, but did they really think this would go un-noticed?”

    I agree with Martin wholeheartedly.

  • Martin

    @Justin –

    It was never my intention to open a ‘which is best debate’.
    Besides, you are not comparing like for like here – Tandem’s has the advantage of having a real world context (and presumably – end user client).
    Sheppard Robson’s is a prototype built at inovation park at the Building Research Establishment, with the sole aim of attaining the most stringent sustainability criteria. As such it is entirely site specific, but destined never to aquire the magic only a ‘home’ can posess…. unless the opportunity arose to build a real world derivative….

  • The warmth and structure of the place is simply fascinating!


    We work from precendent and follow a design as research approach to practise. Projects in Japan; because of their innovative approach to small spaces; informed this design.

    The crowded inner city context; which included a 4 meter high wall running the length of the site on the northern (sunny) side; the very particular planning constraints that govern buildings in Melbourne; the low cost of timber and the high level of skill available in the local building industry – informed the building’s massing, the profile of the curved cross section, neighbouring setbacks and material resolution.

    Our aspiration was to maximise light penetration throughout. The sunshells, along with the translucent danpalon panels in the facade and the central courtyard facilitate this. The additional benefits of cross ventilation encouraged by the building’s shells further developed the cross sectional profile.

    We certainly researched buildings of this typology; but Sheppard Robson’s prototype was not among them. The thread concerning authorship of a curved sectional profile is absurd; implying forms as simple as an elegant response to the sun, wind and rain are somehow copyrighted – and that as architects we work by assembling a three dimensional pastiche of fashionable projects rather than thinking about our work from first principles.

    For the record – we didn’t copy anyone – we researched carefully – we applied what we learned – we responded to the site at an intellectual and intuitive level – and we crafted a site specific response that is intrinsically tied to the projects’ context.

  • The main shape is somehow similar to the other project, but the whole thing looks amazing and it’s a beautiful concept.

  • Federico

    @TANDEM , @martin

    Shepperd Robson’s Lighthouse still is one of the most looked at sustainable housing units. And, as it’s the first Code 6 in the UK, it has been massively advertised by the press. It is hard for me to believe that the BRE Lightohouse does not deserve credits for this design or, at least, that it has not been inspirational…

  • Aussie Archi

    BRE lighthouse – design made public in June 2007
    Kensington Lighthouse – construction began in May 2007

    If we establish the Tandem design went through planning 6-8 months before construction began, I think any claims of plagiarism can be firmly put to bed.

    PS Lucy Liu….you were rubbish in Charlie's Angels ;-)