Challenging the existing heritage policy, which creates humpbacked dwellings all over our inner cities, these two extensions to a tiny worker’s cottage were completed in 2004 and 2010. The original 1850s house was one of the smallest houses in Melbourne at approx 40sqm. Once attached to the pub next door, its backyard had become home to nineteenth-century beer, perfume and medicine bottles buried 1m down into the soil as well as the odd clay pipe. The first extension, to the rear, employed a long plastic wall for maximum light and privacy from the overlooking buildings. In 2010 we added an upper level to the front, with an internal courtyard. The old house and verandah were retained below, without seeming incongruous – the reverse of the traditional heritage approach. Dramatically new at the rear and simple and seemingly traditional at the street end, the house features two bedrooms upstairs with separate staircases, and a fully enclosed deck/courtyard between. This creates a private outdoor living zone, with shade and wind protection, while allowing maximum cross ventilation to both rooms. Movable shutters control the solar gain, making the house very energy efficient. Solar panels reduce the carbon footprint and also shade the roof from the summer sun.
The typical arrangement of inner-city terraces leaves a small garden to the rear, benefiting only the last room of the house, and usually in shadow for much of the day. the approach of pushing a room to the front and creating a private light filled courtyard on the 1st floor, benefits the 2 bedrooms equally, and provides maximum light and ventilation, dramatically improving quality of life.
The built form evolved directly from the existing house, and the ex-pub attached. the modest street face accepts the existing character of the old building, without compromising the new interior. the rear extensions abandons all reference to the existing, being more like a greenhouse- almost temporary looking garden structure. this addition inst visible from the street, so there is no “shock of the new”.
The brief was for a lo-tech low budget high performance extension, that could be easily built. light and ventilation were a priority. all joinery was to be either flat pack kits or home made, to reduce cost and force innovation.
Close collaboration with the tradespeople on site helped adapt the design to avoid cost blow-outs and deal with the 150 year old buildings quirks. the project was consciously designed to take advantage of the particular skills of the guys involved.
Constructing as an owner builder allowed control of costs at all stages, and the design was constantly updated to achieve maximum bang for the buck.
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