Located in a tight single lane street in South Melbourne the original dilapidated one bedroom workman’s cottage built in the 1880s formed the initial brief for architect’s/owner builders Bruno Mendes and Amy Muir. To pursue the desire to construct using one's own hands formed a very important part of the brief. Joe Mendes who manages steel fabrication for a large construction company formed the final link. The following three and a half years of demolition, excavation and construction would be referred to as ‘the daddy Mendes apprenticeship’. While working full time in practice the new house was constructed on weekends. This formed the construction program and associated cash flow.

The 93m2 site adjoined to the north and south neighbouring properties and contained by a rear property called for access to natural light and a view beyond. Flanked by a two storey modernist red brick façade and the ornamented timber cottage to the south, Law Street House became the fourth little pig. Constructed from plate steel the façade adopts a condition of blankness concealing the second storey within the adjusted roof pitch mimicking the form of the site’s former cottage. A ‘draw bridge’ to the front window provides privacy and curates light to the front bedroom providing a signal of occupation to the house beyond.

Upon entry the double height corridor directs the gaze through the full length skylight to capture a view of the existing palm tree. The inversion of the enclosed cottage corridor is adopted in order to maximise the penetration of natural light to the interior and provide an aspect ‘out’ of the tight site. Sky becomes an important distraction for the gaze. The white walls play host to the passage of light that dances across the interior as the day passes patterning the walls as it moves. A memory of the original lean-to roof lines ripple across the underside of Level 1 defining the ‘section’ of the house.

Photography by Peter Bennetts