The language and style of a heritage home addition requires special attention. The iconic and much loved ‘Featherston House’ in Ivanhoe by Robin Boyd has had a handsome update. The original home was designed in 1967-69 for two of Australia’s most significant Modernist industrial designers, Grant and Mary Featherston. Well known for their innovative use of materials in furniture design, the Featherstons’ collaborative works spanned many decades beginning in the 1940’s and also crossed over into areas such as graphics and exhibitions.

Grant and Mary were intimately involved in the design of their famous home. The internal program of the house was based on interchangeable platforms that created a wonderful sense of space and connection between volumes. The translucent roof of the original carries through to the addition, and a strong relationship to the natural environment remains a key feature, complimenting the internal gardens.

The home is resonant of Boyd’s philosophy for ‘spatial continuity’. Cooling Brother’s was delighted when approached by Grant and Mary’s son, Julian Featherston, to be involved in the construction of a ‘floating’ glass staircase which would form an integral part of the update. Julian, a technical consultant in the building industry, worked closely with Mary on carefully developed design briefs and consulted heritage experts to make ‘responsible alterations’.

Julian enjoyed the technical challenge of creating the glass stair, designed for visual continuity from the inside to the natural surrounding bush. He describes:

Completing the engineering was a challenge. I worked with Dale Simpson of Perrett Simpson. We used Autodesk FEA software to visualise and quantify load paths. These stairs would not have been possible without his invaluable contribution.

I learnt a great deal about the challenges of glass fabrication in producing this glass. Before beginning development, I spoke to glass fabricators and was told it ought to be practical, however once the panels were documented, Cooling Brothers proved to be one of the very few manufacturers capable of fabricating this job.

Installation was yet another challenge. A long-time collaborator, Shaweld Engineering were up for the challenge and we were able to install all the glass stringers and steel treads in less than 5 hours. It’s complex but comprises few components, it was entirely dependent on accurate CNC documentation and fabrication.

From a manufacturing perspective, the size, shape and processing was a technical challenge for Cooling Brothers which required a combination of patience, skill and specialised knowledge. The minimal design of unusual skewed Y and V shapes at very large sizes involved some tricky glass manoeuvring, with no one way in which to easily rest the heavyweight structural glass for lamination. As well, the unforgiving architectural frameless design meant the edgework could be nothing less than perfectly finished making the decisions on which way up or down to position the glass in the autoclave all the more critical. Precision hole drilling was required for the stair treads and fittings, one panel alone had 27 holes making the process even more complex.

The glass was engineered with Saflex DG41 structural interlayer and the client selected low iron glass, allowing the finished look to be even more elegant and refined. Julian’s reflection on the glass staircase was a very satisfying outcome for Cooling Brothers, knowing we could help deliver something so unique, his final comments were:

I was extremely happy with the result. It’s beautiful, simple and exciting. People very much enjoy using the staircase and enjoy watching others, especially kids walking on floating treads as they climb the stairs. 

We would love to help other designers and engineers develop new structural glass elements and look forward to working with Cooling Brothers on challenging jobs in the future.

Image Gallery
Project Details

Designer

Location

Engineering

Photographer

Glass

Process

Julian Featherston, Two Feathers

Ivanhoe, Victoria

Dale Simpson, Perrett Simpson

John Gollings Photography

25.52mm Low Iron Tough DG41

Custom Laminate

Project Details

Julian Featherston, Two Feathers

Ivanhoe, Victoria

Dale Simpson, Perrett Simpson

John Gollings Photography

25.52mm Low Iron Tough DG41

Custom Laminate