Dezeen Magazine

Exterior image of River House by Christopher Furminger

Brick and concrete walls enclose outdoor spaces at River House extension in Brisbane

Architect Christopher Furminger has completed an extension to a home in Brisbane, Australia, featuring robust walls that frame gardens, courtyards and paths linking the living spaces.

Furminger was asked to expand the existing weatherboard home, named River House, by adding a garden and carport along with a new entrance and extra rooms for the owner's family.

Exterior and entrance to Australian home
Christopher Furminger has added a brick and concrete extension to a house in Brisbane

The Australian architect's interventions occupy the area between the street and the single-storey house, which is located in the city's Chelmer neighbourhood and backs onto the Brisbane River.

To reduce costs and minimise disruption, the original building fabric and site plan were preserved as much as possible, allowing the owners to continue living in the house while work was ongoing.

Brick and concrete exterior of River House
The River House extension is designed to look like a ruin

Furminger's design, which is intended to evoke a ruin, involved reducing the structure to a series of monumental elements that enclose the parking area, garden and entrance.

"The intention was to create a building with a presence all of its own," the architect explained, "to loom with physical power, embodying a geometric order with primitive structural force."

Covered courtyard of Australian residence
Large concrete walls conceal the original single-storey home

Masonry and concrete walls separate the site into different functional zones, including open and private courtyard gardens.

"The main garden walls wrap the internal rooms of the existing building, creating a structure that appears to have no glass nor function," Furminger added. "This contributes to the ruin metaphor, forming a solid physical mass embodying the endurance of a ruin – reduced to what lasts."

Entrance of River House in Brisbane
Courtyards and gardens are framed by the concrete walls

The outer walls of the River House are constructed from a palette of bricks in five different brown and beige hues. The colours were chosen to match stones and sand collected during the site's excavation.

Perforations in some of the surfaces allow light and air to pass through, creating a stronger connection with the outdoors.

The extension also makes use of commercial materials and construction techniques such as tilt-up concrete walls, which are created by pouring concrete into moulds on the ground and then hoisting them into place.

Plumbing and electrical wiring were integrated into the tilt-up panels to reduce the number of trades required on site, while precast concrete flooring was used for the roof sections.

Study inside Australian home by Christopher Furminger
The home's interiors can be adapted to the owner's changing needs

Within River House's brick perimeter, a pair of external monolithic concrete walls conceal the living spaces from the street. Only the entrance is visible through a gap created by separating the large slabs.

A similar method of separation was used to create a void in the roof of the carport that allows daylight to reach a doorway leading into a boot room.

Tiled bathroom of Australian residence by Christopher Furminger
Ground floor living spaces look out onto the courtyards

Behind the concrete walls, the living spaces are separated into distinct zones with separate entrances. This versatile arrangement will allow the family to adapt the house to their changing needs over time.

A path flanked by courtyard gardens leads to a lobby that provides access to a bedroom suite on one side and a guest bedroom on the other.

Hidden residential courtyard
There are a mix of private and open courtyards

River House's boot room is accessed from the carport, while a staircase ascending from one of the courtyards leads to a studio on the first floor.

Each of the ground-floor spaces connects with one of the courtyards and the first-floor studio features windows looking out over the roof of the existing house towards the river.

Courtyard at River House by Christopher Furminger which opens onto a courtyard
One courtyard has a staircase that leads to a studio space

Elsewhere in Australia, Olson Kundig recently completed a Sydney home that is lined with louvred shutters that expose the living areas to sea views and fresh air.

Conrad Architects designed a marble-clad home in Melbourne that has a roof terrace and pool overlooking the city's skyline.

The photography is by David Chatfield.

More images and plans

Ground floor plan of River House by Christopher Furminger
First floor plan of River House by Christopher Furminger
River House exterior by Christopher Furminger
River House exterior by Christopher Furminger
River House exterior by Christopher Furminger
River House interior by Christopher Furminger
River House interior by Christopher Furminger
River House interior by Christopher Furminger
River House interior by Christopher Furminger
River House interior by Christopher Furminger