Endorsed by

Whimsy and wonder: Backyard Music Studio

Transforming the humble Australian backyard into a place of learning, M3 Architecture has created a whimsical and functional music studio that takes its inspiration from Finnish modernism.

Backyards really are wondrous places. They’re the scenes of our earliest childhood memories, where we retreat for some quiet time or the perfect location for a Sunday barbecue. Most of us have taken part in a game of backyard cricket and everyone knows someone who loves to tinker in their shed. For M3 Architecture this quintessentially Australian setting plays host to one of its most unusual projects to date – a tiny music studio at the rear of a home in suburban Newcastle.

Architects are seldom asked to celebrate the backyard, but M3 Architecture has reinvented it as a refreshingly new site for formal pedagogy. In designing the freestanding studio – a private space that can be used publicly – the Brisbane-based practice was respectful of the context, elegantly responding to existing conditions by creating a comfortable learning environment for young violin and viola students.

Timber flooring brings warmth to the studio and extends outward to double as a stage.

Timber flooring brings warmth to the studio and extends outward to double as a stage.

Image: Brett Boardman

The studio is set back from the house, adjacent an existing olive tree and rectilinear on the side closest to the boundary fence. The studio’s scale is modest, with a flat roof and a gable-shaped front verandah that tops a wide doorway, making it all the more domestic in appearance. Yet despite its humble proportions, the studio’s overall scheme is grounded in a decidedly grand concept. “We took inspiration from a method of teaching that originated in Finland,” says Michael Banney, one of the four M3 Architecture directors. “And when considering Finland and music, we couldn’t help thinking of Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall in Helsinki.”

The reverence paid to this iconic building is evident in the small studio’s stark white exterior, as well as the interior’s dark blue and white colour palette. A piece of Finlandia Hall’s original marble facade – retrieved from a bin during the hall’s recent recladding – even sits in a corner of the studio. However, the crispness of its angles and lines undeniably references M3 Architecture’s previous design for Brisbane Girls Grammar School Creative Learning Centre, albeit in a condensed version.

A timber doorframe and flooring add warmth to the interior, while the raised timber deck extends the inside out and also doubles as a stage. Performing students are perfectly framed by the studio’s wide doorway and there’s plenty of room in the backyard for an audience. This recent M3 Architecture project endears as much for its aspirational concept as it does for its homely charm and aesthetic. Students have responded to it positively and the wider community has embraced it as a cultural asset, imbued with equal parts whimsy and functionality.




Published online: 10 Nov 2017
Words: Leanne Amodeo
Images: Brett Boardman, Michael Banney


Houses, August 2017

More projects

See all
The roof, a “simple and singular signature,” makes the stadium a recognizable gateway to the city. Maximizing intensity: Optus Stadium

As the centrepiece of an urban rehabilitation project east of Perth’s CBD, this sporting landmark is uniquely of its place while also serving as an …

Located in the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, Woods Bagot’s residential and retail building presents a memorable facade of staggered concrete forms and dense foliage. Tall ambitions: Short Lane

As Sydney pursued a public conversation about brutalist architecture, a new building in Surry Hills was making its mark.

At the entry to Pt. Leo Estate, a dramatic sculptural courtyard featuring a Queensland bottle tree is an intense, dry space that contrasts the vineyards surrounding it. In vino veritas: Pt. Leo Estate Cellar Door and Sculpture Park

The design for this vineyard and sculpture park on a coastal site in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula skilfully orchestrates architecture, landscape and art into a cohesive …

Plastic Palace is the first iteration of what will be an annual commission by Albury City Council and Murray Art Museum Albury. The project makes visible the growing problem of waste management. Loving and confronting: Plastic Palace

In the face of Australia’s accelerating waste crisis, a temporary structure in Albury by Raffaello Rosselli Architect lays bare the true cost of our reliance …

Most read

Latest on site