MM House an exemplar of meticulous design and concrete craftsmanship 

We often hear a beautiful example of concrete construction described as 'a work of art'.

But the end result is only ever as good as the artisans in whose hands it's created - evidence the MM House.

Overlooking Sydney Harbour at Vaucluse, this beautiful home is a marriage of clever design and beautiful execution, with the concrete forms born of a long-time working relationship between the design team at KA Design Studio and formwork carpenters John Sussanna and Brendon Nee of Master Form Services.

KA Design Studio's Director Sebastian Kaintoch has worked with John and Brendon over many years, to the point where each instinctively knows what the other wants when it comes to designing and articulating superb off-form concrete elements. 

Not surprisingly, Kaintoch is a great fan of off-form concrete. But he's not one to overplay his hand. In the MM House it's used judiciously - principally in the intricate entry canopy, internal feature walls, landings and the boundary wall next to the pool - and in balance with other materials. 

In these examples, the care and craftsmanship that's gone into each form is obvious. 

Take the internal off-form feature wall that supports cantilevered stairs leading up to the upper floor bedroom level. The core ties used to hold the formwork in place were perfectly positioned in a square pattern, which together with the liens left behind by the formwork boards has created a mesmerising symmetrical pattern on the wall.

With only one opportunity to get such forms right, it requires a great deal of skill on the part of the Master Form team - not to mention a large dose of trust from the client. 

At A Glance

KA Design Studio
Design Team: Lisa Trackenberg, Christian Campoy, Sebastian Kaintoch
Images: Katherine Lu 
Builder: Horizon
Specialist Concrete Contractor: Master Form Services

Main Concrete Elements:

  • In-situ off-form internal feature wall
  • In-situ off-form entry canopy
  • Landings and paths
  • Pool boundary wall

Main Benefits:

  • Structural integrity
  • Aesthetics
"The client's original brief didn't include concrete. We had to sell it to them," Kaintoch says.

"But we explained the off-form process in great detail before we got underway - how, where and why were setting out every single (form) line and every core tie.

"We subsequently invited the client to site when we stripped away the formwork. It was a bit like unwrapping a present. They were very happy with the end result".

This internal wall actually translates as the 'spine' of the home, a continuous structural form that starts in the basement and carries through the ground floor to the upper level. The rawness of the material is counterbalanced by a palette of softer, warmer materials and textures, including natural stone flooring and American Oak panelling. 

The attention to detail is also reflected in the 3-metre tall, 2.6m cantilevered entry canopy that greets visitors off the street. The geometry of the design require five timber formwork boards to meet in one spot, with the edge of the canopy tapering to just 100mm thick.

Again, the elegance of this finished form is a testament to the success of the execution. Kaintoch says he wanted it to be very sculptural and thin, which meant "... pushing (the material) to the boundaries."

Challenging boundaries, in fact, seems to be a recurring theme in the work of KA Design Studio. And in the MM House, they've tested concrete's credentials as a building material 'without limits' - and found it not wanting.