QUICK FACTSProject// Bentleigh HouseBuilder // DIMPATArchitect// MMAD ArchitecturePhotography // Jack LovelFeatured Products// GB Masonry - GB Honed in Porcelain and GB Wedge Breeze Blocks in Porcelain
Why concrete blocks were the on-trend choice for a Melbourne rebuildMMAD’s Michael Montgomery opted for breeze blocks to add a playful element to his redesign of a Melbourne home.The concrete block, widely used on Australian building sites from the 1950s onwards, is seriously cool again.A new generation of stylish concrete blocks and decorative breeze blocks is winning over the nation’s top architects, who value their versatility, sustainability and aesthetic appeal.
Naomi Stead, professor of architecture at Monash University and a self-confessed ‘blockhead’, says that breeze blocks were ubiquitous in post-war Australia before falling out of fashion.“Now their fortunes have turned again and architects, for the moment at least, can’t get enough of them,” she says.Commentators such as Professor Stead believe that breeze blocks offer architects an ornamental palette which happens to suit today’s pared-back, minimalist design aesthetic.“The return of the breeze block is a story about ornament,” she says. “Many contemporary architects are exploring new modes of surface and material ornament, and it’s easy to see the return of the breeze block as part of this movement.”
Michael Montgomery, principal architect at MMAD in Melbourne, chose GB Masonry Breeze Blocks to add a playful and decorative element to his redesign for Bentleigh House, a Californian bungalow in the city’s south-east.“A driver of the design for Bentleigh House was to create interest through the play of texture and light, and, more importantly, utilising natural materials that evoked an artisan touch,” he explains.Breeze blocks, from the GB Masonry range, were used to screen the butler’s pantry from the rest of the living zones but without separating the spaces visually. The Union Jack pattern was a cheeky nod to the client’s English background.
Apart from breeze blocks the reborn Bentleigh House makes extensive use of honed masonry blocks – on both external and internal walls – to add texture and warmth to the building.“Staggering the lays, using various size blocks and shapes and projecting the lay of blocks to cast shadow combine to create texture and interest from various points of view without introducing other materials or colours,” he says.“While often considered a cold material, the tones of the honed blocks brought a warmth to the living spaces.”Unlike the standard grey concrete blocks of yesteryear, the GB Masonry collection uses the latest technology to create modern masonry products in a variety of finishes, sizes and colours.
By adding oxides, fine aggregates and coloured sands to its mix of raw materials, GB Masonry, part of the Brickworks Building Products Group, produces a masonry block which combines aesthetic appeal with strong environmental credentials.GB Masonry products are not only weather-resistant, they offer excellent sound insulation and impressive thermal mass, reducing heating and cooling costs for property owners.While Michael Montgomery was excited by the aesthetic possibilities of using masonry blocks in the Bentleigh House, he was also impressed by their excellent thermal and insulation qualities – an important consideration given Melbourne’s harsh winters.“While the upfront cost of the honed masonry block is higher than some other products, this was outweighed by the benefits of longevity, low maintenance and low environmental footprint combined with their aesthetic beauty,” he says.