For this significant residential renovation project, the succinct brief from our clients was to upgrade and update the home’s condition and capabilities while respecting its heritage quality and evident beauty.
Accommodating a collection of cars was a central challenge. The house in its existing state was beautifully sited and scaled on its grounds; we felt that any increase in visual bulk would injure this balance and a commitment was made to treat the garaging as a ‘shadow’, concealing it in basement format below the existing tennis court and gardens.
The secrecy of the underground world introduced notions of an architectural alter-ego, an alternative character that could offer the project its modern-day relevance. The indelible image of Bruce Wayne’s garage in The Dark Knight became a totem of the design approach, sponsoring the Batman-inspired naming of the project as the Wayne Residence.
Sectional view through new stair
Precedent image – movie still from The Dark Knight
The vast scale of the intervention was most clearly understood during the excavation, over which the house silently presided. On completion of the works, the giant hole had been infilled, the ‘roof’ of the basement piled with new soil, and the garden and tennis court fully reinstated. The secret was intact.
Site photo – excavation of basement, looking down from house
Site photo – excavation of basement, looking up at house
The replacement garden at completion
Lateral thinking and innovative engineering allowed for cars to access the basement via a concealed ramp on the boundary, its hydraulic lid topped with turf and detailed to coincide seamlessly with the tennis court baseline. Once inside, the luminous ceiling plane and mirrored rear wall combine to create the illusion of an endless, sky-lit space that belies its underground location.
In the stair that vertically links the basement and house, the solid timber flooring of the ground floor continues down to the basement, while the stained timber cladding of the basement continues up. The fissure of the sky-lit stair thus operates as the dovetail between the two worlds, stitching the Batcave experience into the centre of the ground floor plan and granting, meanwhile, views of the heritage façade under which one passes.
Hydraulic ramp access below tennis court to ‘Batcave’
Equivalent images during construction and at completion, showing stair link between new basement and existing house
Articulated Neo-Georgian detailing
Futuristic basement car park
Inherently respectful to the history of the site, the silent rebellion of the concealed intervention affords the project its identity. The resulting fantasy world hovers between past and future – entirely appropriate for the contemporary renovation of a house with an important place in history.