Text by WOWOWA Architects
Wrong Champ is a house for collectors, a cluster of intimate courtyard spaces infused with curiosity and crafted collisions located on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people in Brunswick West, Victoria, Australia. An addition to a home for two, WOWOWA has carefully embellished the Arts and Crafts-inspired detailing of the existing Californian Bungalow.
Situated amongst a series of largely intact bungalows constructed during the 1920s, Wrong Champ has been shaped by the defining characteristics of this architectural type, a staple of Melbourne suburbia during the interwar period.
WOWOWA has created an addition by extending this existing geometry, pulling the pitch of the roof through to the back of the block. Intimate light wells have then been carved from the form to allow a sequence of spaces that balance separation and visual connection through curved cathedral windowed walls.
Through the relocation of the home’s existing bathroom, WOWOWA has opened up a clear visual axis through the house, punctuated by a dramatic extruded threshold at the centre of the plan. Lined with deep brown timber and awash with light from the skylight above, this book-filled vestibule marks a transition from the bungalow’s more conventional rooms to the loosely collected, heavily glazed cluster of interior and exterior spaces cradled within Wrong Champ’s new volume.
The richness and intensity of this moment also signals a clear intention to carry the detail and ornament from the front of home through the project to the back of the site, celebrating the garden elevation as much as the street facade.
Moving from the Brunswick West streetscape to the Corbusian chapel from which the project draws its name, the existing home’s solid gables, weatherboard and veranda posts on brick piers re-emerge towards the back of the site as Wrong Champ’s sweeping roofline, vertical shiplap cladding and massive rendered chimney.
Stained glass from the existing house has been retained and reused throughout the front of the house, as well as reinterpreted through faceted glazed walls with delicate engaged columns deployed between frames.
Wrong Champ’s colour palette situates the creams and greens of its suburban context amongst a sprawling, mezze-like range of appetizing citrus and berry hues of varying intensity. An unselfconscious sense of nostalgia permeates WOWOWA’s use of colour and material.
Bright berry hues at the tiled kitchen bench and splashback, alongside a range of soft pinks from the terrazzo, gravel and flagstone underfoot have been buttered with a creamy, peachy palette across the walls, ceilings and soffits. A deep olive green trim to windows and doors recalls the heritage character of the area while continuing the colour scheme’s culinary feel.
Underlining the dynamic qualities of Wrong Champ’s collected interiors, the home takes full advantage of site orientation, opening up toward the entertaining spaces of the backyard and the northern sun, bathing courtyards and interior volumes with light across the day in cooler months, while still offering protection through highly-rated glass.
A confident mix of forms, references, colours and materials, the project combines a careful study of context and client without constraint. The “wrong” in Wrong Champ—from the collision of forms and buttery, savoury pastels to the home’s layered, irregular pockets of space—is both an unwavering commitment to reflecting the desires and priorities of the home’s occupants, as well as a wholehearted rejection of the banal axioms of the property market.
In this sense, Wrong Champ is much more than just a beautiful setting for a collection of precious items and memories: the project also holds space for tension between elements and objects within the architecture itself, reinforcing the ways in which a collection is strengthened by retaining and celebrating the individual qualities of each of its constituent parts.
Photos by Derek Swalwell