When a family in the Sydney suburb of Vaucluse decided to extend their bungalow home, they enlisted local firm MCK Architects to carry out the renovation. But what began as a straightforward expansion quickly became complicated by the presence of a certain massive, protruding neighbor—a monolithic rock formation at the rear end of the site.
With clients willing to experiment and a natural context unusually dramatic for a domestic space, the project still conjures fond memories in the mind of Mark Cashman, one of the principals at MCK. "This house was one of the most enjoyable architectural experiences I have had," he told Knoll. "The client was wonderful to work with, allowing us almost free rein, while also providing collaborative input that was educated and informed with great taste."
“The Jehs+Laub Lounge Chair and its footstool have a very contemporary feel, but with a clear reference to classic modernity.”
A Jehs+Laub Lounge Chair and Ottoman in the Skirt + Rock House. Photograph by Richard Glover, courtesy of MCK Architects.
For the new living room, the architects conceived of a double height void supported by two slim columns, permitting a deepened connection to the landscape by increasing access to sunlight, air, and the surrounding foliage. But the architects used the imposing position of the stone houseguest to amplify this connection, allowing the large rock to freely jut into the back of the bungalow through a clear opening on the ground floor.
"It opens like an eye to the sky and trees folding and undulating along the perimeter of the plan," Rowena Marsh, also a principal at MCK, said of the space. "When describing this form to the client, and the experience one might feel standing in the lounge room looking out, the analogy of a skirt was used and then stuck, hence skirt and rock."
Connecting an expansive living area to an elegant rectangular pond, a boundary of trees, and most significantly, a huge rock, the renovation balances the rugged edges of the natural terrain with the refined lines of a contemporary home. In a position that almost serves to lock this balance in place, a Lounge Chair and Ottoman designed for Knoll by German industrial designers Markus Jehs and Jürgen Laub was added to the living room, oriented to face the similarly faceted rock formation.
“It opens like an eye to the sky and trees folding and undulating along the perimeter of the plan.”
Blurred boundaries in the expansion of the Skirt + Rock House. Photograph by Richard Glover, courtesy of MCK Architects.
"The Jehs+Laub Lounge Chair and its footstool have a very contemporary feel, but with a clear reference to classic modernity,” noted Cashman. "There is a clear organic nature that also shows innovation and inventiveness, plus a bit of playfulness. These are all principles in the architecture of MCK, and perhaps why it sits well with our work."
"We believe the piece sits perfectly well in the double height living space," added Marsh, "providing an inviting element of comfort for one to recline in and enjoy the sunshine and views to the surrounding garden, while the geometry of the form sits harmoniously within the architecture."