Lyon Housemuseum

The Lyon Housemuseum speculates on the conjunction of art and living, challenges conventional notions of ‘public’ and ‘private’ and explores new relationships between art and architecture through a new hybridised architectural type – a ‘housemuseum’.

Drawing on historical precedents such as the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice and Sir John Soane’s Museum in London the Housemuseum displays art in a combination of museum and residential scaled spaces which are juxtaposed and interwoven. Located in the Melbourne suburb of Kew, Australia, the building accommodates the daily living needs of a family of four and the requirements of a fully functioning public museum housing a major collection of contemporary art. The building is open weekly for public tours and for research visits by academics and students. The Housemuseum also hosts an annual program of concerts, artist and architecture talks and other cultural events. The juxtaposition these of two conflicting programs presented unique opportunities and challenges for the design. These were resolved not by demarking separate ‘private’ and ‘public’ zones but by juxtaposing and interweaving the two programs and types. Spaces in the building are intentionally ambiguous in their typological readings – the family kitchen doubles as museum café, the black box showing video art is also used as a home cinema and for family sleepovers. The private study also functions as a research library for visiting academics and students. Internally, two large double height spaces - a ‘white cube’ and ‘black box’ - anchor the two ends of the building and are designed explicitly as museum spaces. Private spaces for the family, defined with enclosed boxlike forms, are across the two levels of the building.

Further spaces which are used by both family and visitors flow around and in between, creating scenographic spaces and vistas for the display of art. These are interwoven with the domestic settings of the house. Externally the building was conceived as a gable ended form - a primitive idea of house - extruded along the site as a long prismatic volume. A setback from the main street, Cotham Road, and a re-entrant courtyard along the side street articulate the form through a series of volumetric shifts and deformations. Side gables, a truncated chimney and deep roof overhangs add ambiguity and complexity to the hybrid housemuseum form which is tightly wrapped in a skin of dark zinc. The building is contextualised within its suburban setting through use of corbelled brickwork on the street fences spelling out the names of the corner address – COTHAM and FLORENCE - in two metre high lettering. As an experimental and speculative project, the Housemuseum uses a new hybridised typology to explore relationships between public and private, ‘museum’ and ‘house’ and the interrelationship of art and living.

Project Details: Location: Kew, Melbourne Size: 1100 m2 Architect: Lyons ( Museum Website:


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