Text description provided by the architects. Grant House is the alteration and addition to a dark and narrow single-storey terrace in North Fitzroy. The old part of the house has been respectfully maintained and updated and a new extension has been sleeved between original boundary walls. The new extension comprises kitchen/living/dining (and secret cellar), with parent’s retreat upstairs. Utilising the side laneway, the main entry is now in the centre of the house. A large and imposing galvanised steel door opens onto a light-flooded courtyard that separates the old house from the new addition.
The house had been renovated sometime in the mid 1980s, with a typical long rectangular addition stuck on the back. The renovation had failed to solve the big problem terrace houses suffer from; an entry way filled with junk (bags, bikes, bins), dark corridors past private bedrooms and windowless walk-through living zones. For the past fifteen years our practice has been battling issues of inner city living and the regeneration of ageing building stock. We have learned how to deal with dark terraces with bad circulation, gaining the experience and skills to address the challenges. Through development and experimentation, we’ve strived for designs that are economic and imaginative. Though dealing with the same challenges, Grant House has a prime advantage - laneway access. The bonus of a side laneway meant traditional terrace entry constraints could be subverted. In this case, moving the entry to the side allows the bedrooms to remain private, and visitors to be welcomed directly into the entertaining area.
In rethinking the functionality of the house and how it is used, garden space has been protected and expanded. Reduction of the original footprint created more natural light, more garden and easier access. By stripping the 1980s extension, eight metres of brick wall was exposed and the character and history of an old sailing boat mural was discovered and celebrated. Our aim of creating vibrant architecture is never at the expense of heritage. Respecting the importance of heritage, we prefer to gently abut, sit beside or hover over. At Grant House we created a visual and spacial separation between the old and the new with a (silver birch tree filled) courtyard. Having that separation brings light and air into the back of the old house and into the new addition.
Grant House has been designed with future-proofing in mind. With design forethought, multifunctional spaces can evolve as needs change without having to demolish and rebuild. Preserving and maintaining is always at the core of our projects. Sustainability is not simply about using recycled materials and maximising passive solar gain. At Grant House we have continued to consider and tackle changing needs and design spaces that have flexibility, future-proofing the use of the house without demolition and re-construction. The house can evolve in the long term at no heavy carbon expense.