Design Concept


The overall conceptual idea for the house which Workshop Architecture came up with was inspired by traditional Japanese joinery details. Images are from the book ‘The Art of Japanese Joinery’ by Kiyosi Seike.

pic4 pic2 pic1 conceptfrontconcept rear

The interlocking wooden joinery forms are referenced in the interlocking forms of the larger building’s functional spaces. The blue forms denote enclosed balcony/external areas.


Sketch Design

These are the sketch design plans developed by Workshop Architecture for the tsubo-niwa inspired house.

site plan

Site context plan. The house covers a similar footprint to the neighbouring weatherboard houses.  North is up the page.

north elevation

North Elevation


Section. The house is single story at street frontage and becomes split level at the rear, with a half flight of stairs leading down to the bedroom, tatami, study and garden and a half flight of stairs up to the living/dining/kitchen, with balconies and outlook to city views.

ground plan

Ground floor. The layout is similar in essence to the original concept ideas, however it has a stronger symmetry, with the circulation and courtyard spaces centrally located. The tusbo-niwa remains with the onsen style bathroom adjacent. The master bedroom and tatami room each have corner opening windows on to the garden, a view framed from each space.

first floor

First Floor. Upstairs leads to the central hub of the house, the dining area with kitchen and living to the sides. Each space is extended by an outside balcony. The spaces themselves are differentiated by varying ceiling heights and treatments.

The land


This is a photo of the land for sale, brochure reads:

“UNDER OFFER – Dimensions that define the future

A vacant allotment is always a tempting proposition. When positioned as attractively as this brilliant block, the options become even more tempting! A range of rewarding possibilities, each equally attractive, is led by the opportunity to act upon approved plans and permits for a dual level family home featuring Living/Dining areas and 3 Bedrooms downstairs, complemented above by a superb main Bedroom with ensuite, walk-in robes and Studio/Retreat. A pool, also included in the fully approved plans, will make the utmost of a consistently sought after address. Alternatively, consider concepts of your own for this exceptional site on some 307sqm approx, close to Racecourse Road’s shops, cafes and transport options to the city.
Agent on site refer to open times.”

Initial ideas

photoWe worked up an initial concept, single storey at the front to match the bulk of the neighbouring weatherboard cottages, north side entry, small courtyard garden at the entry, two storey behind with bedrooms and tatami room on ground floor and living/dining kitchen on first floor.

The bathroom adjoins the courtyard with openable windows so we can create an onsen (Japanese hot bath) experience open to the outside, using a spa bath.

The upper level remained unresolved and the design was lacking an overall clear concept to tie it together. This combined with my lack of knowledge of the Victorian Building Regulations/Rescode and not having practiced architecture for over 10 years, led us to engage the help of old friends James Staughton and Simone Koch, from Workshop Architecture.

Richard Chenhall and Nerissa Kamat 2013