Text description provided by the architects. Nestled in a diverse residential neighbourhood, the original building was a dilapidated double-fronted Victorian house book-ended by a double-storey terrace house on its south side. The house is located on a corner allotment, pinched in by the main street and a laneway which gives it its triangular shape that tapers towards the rear. As a heritage listed building, it was imperative to rescue the front of house which was in a severe state of disrepair.
The homeowner presented us a brief that requested a 3-bedroom family home whilst making use of the neighbour's double-height boundary wall to introduce a second story volume to the rear of the property.
In contrast to the convoluted and dimly-lit layout of the original house, the new extension had to be well-lit, adopt a spacious feel, and combine seamlessly with the front heritage building.
The original rear spaces were messy in their layout and clustered haphazardly, so our goal was to retain and restore the existing front of house whilst improving the flow and functionality of the overall house. We subverted the status quo of a typical “ground level extension” by promoting the living spaces upstairs and organizing all bedrooms at ground level. This enabled the bedrooms to borrow inherent privacy and security afforded by a new boundary wall facing the laneway. Upstairs, the living spaces now sit above the neighbouring roofline and open towards uninterrupted city views and light.
The new contemporary facade celebrates classic pitched roofs of old Victorians in the neighbour hood by referencing these triangular shapes in the upper floor's external batten screen. This screen not only presents a clear external graphic to the laneway, but also protects privacy by shielding views into the neighbours' gardens. A full-height polycarbonate wall on the internal face of the upstairs living spaces still allows for light into the rooms. During the day, soft daylight illuminates the elevated living spaces and when the sun sets, these spaces become lanterns under the night sky.
New insertions such as windows and glazed sliders are framed in aluminium to contrast against the double-sash, timber-framed windows of the old house. In extending this choice of material, the batten privacy screen comprises aluminium extrusions to achieve a machine-grade uniformity that juxtaposes wonderfully against the hand-laid weatherboard cladding of old.
A strong color palette of ‘whites’ was employed to elevate the visual impact the house. Rather than succumbing to a traditional solid wall punctuated with windows, we designed this translucent wall to literally be a "wall of light" and emanate diffused daylight uniformly into the main living zones.
The irregularly-shaped site also allowed us to introduce a "shared garden" at street level; a departure from the harsh treatment along the laneway as evident by other corner allotments in the area. The garden was achieved by angling the new boundary fence towards the house to carve out a landscaped feature at a human scale. Despite the house's small footprint, this effort was made to ensure that a part of the house could be shared with the community.
Downside Up House is ultimately an exercise in designing "big home features" on a small footprint. The house subverts the typical "ground level extension” approach without compromising light, space and quality of living.