2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

Image Credit : Cloud House - John Gollings



Project Overview

The Cloud House is an addition and renovation to a double-fronted Edwardian-era house in Fitzroy North. McBride Charles Ryan’s work for the house is designed in three distinct parts. The original structure is retained with minimal modification, while a cloud-shaped extrusion, a dramatic extension to the living space, is added at the rear of the property. The third element, a central red kitchen ‘box’, acts as a pivot, linking these contrasting spaces.

Project Commissioner


Project Creator

McBride Charles Ryan


McBride Charles Ryan
Principal Architects: Robert McBride and Debbie Ryan
Project Team: Ben Inman, Cathryn Panettieri, Marie Chen, Gabriella Muto

Project Brief

The Cloud House is the first home for a young family. The project responds to the owner's many ambitions. The facade of the 1950's modified Edwardian house is untouched, save for some repair work. This presents a deliberately non-confrontational face to the street, demonstrating some respect for the evolution of the character of the area and their desire for acceptance in the street.

Moving inside, a vibrant carpet immediately alerts the occupant that there is bolder architecture ahead; consisting of a pop playfulness that challenges traditional building forms. A new structure of a 'box' contains the new kitchen creating a threshold between the existing fabric and introducing the new, red heart of the house. The kitchen bridges into the new living space, engulfing the occupants with the dramatic ceiling of the timber-lined 'cloud' form. With its large areas of glazing at each end, this playful 'cloud' places the family space securely and central to the back yard, with their lap pool just metres away.

Project Need

Cloud House places the 'new' boldly next to the 'old' and celebrates the both of them. It is unique in its presentation of 3 distinct parts, creating a sequence of distinct and unexpected episodes that explores new architectural language. Through contrast, these changing experiences enhance the qualities of each of the preceding elements.

The intact street facade belies the extent of the comprehensive internal renovation work; the exotic floral hallway carpet upon entrance contrasts with the modest exterior, leading through the largely unaltered Edwardian-era house to the assemblage of the red-coloured 'box'. Overwhelmingly coloured and with three-dimensional pixellated fractures, this kitchen created a dramatic contrast from the crisp lines of the white Edwardian-era formal corridor.

The cloud-shaped extrusion is the final space, its scale overwhelming the red box. This whimsical form of a 'cloud' is a unique way of responding to setback regulation, without appearing to be obviously determined by them. The craftsmanship demonstrated in this extrusion is remarkable throughout. Timber-lined, with a sense of care typically associated with the work of a cooper or a wheelwright. While the geometry of the cloud is playful, the extrusion makes this construction a contemporary version of a barrel vault. Blatantly sculptural, while enhancing the amenity for the occupants the Cloud House is a daring argument in the long tradition of architectural discourse regarding representational form in architecture. These extensions are a bold reinterpretation of a typical suburban brief.

Design Challenge

The main design challenge for alterations and additions in the inner north of the city is to achieve innovative form whilst satisfying planning envelope controls. The geometry of the Cloud House cleverly achieves this without appearing to be subservient to these restrictions.

Once the Cloud form was agreed with the clients, there were two principal challenges. Firstly to maintain the purity of this form, both externally and internally a clear span needed to be achieved within the cloud extrusion. The profile had to be as visually fine as possible, thereby minimising material usage and cost. Secondly resolving the sequence between the three distinct spatial qualities was a vital element of the project.


The conversion of this Edwardian-era double fronted house utilises the potential of the existing building by demolishing little, refurbishing the existing rooms, replacing the kitchen and adding a new living room. While retaining its complexity of geometry, the extrusion of the cloud is essentially a structurally efficient barrel vault. Double-glazed end walls of the sustainable timber-lined ‘cloud' are adjusted so that, the north-facing glazing is inset to eliminate penetration of the summer sun, allowing only controlled north light into the space. Effective cross ventilation is achieved through this space by opening the southern sliding doors with high placed louvred windows to the north pulling through the breeze. Evaporative cooling can be achieved from the body of swimming pool water. A rain water tank harvests water from the roof of the existing building for irrigating the garden.

This award recognises the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project must be constructed.

Judging Note : Judging for this category will be finalised on Monday 27th August and Finalists will be announced on Tuesday 28th August.

More Details