Text description provided by the architects. Fitzroy Bridge House involves the conversion of a terrace house graded individually significant in the South Fitzroy Heritage Precinct. Containing a chequered history, the dwelling resides at the end of a terrace row of 4 with a block of flats to its north side. Designed for a young family whose vision for the house was strongly tied to the history of the original building, the resulting conversion celebrates the legacy of the site & surrounds, preserving authenticity with creative adaptations that enable responsive family living on a challenging site.
South Fitzroy - Melbourne’s earliest suburb - is characterized by “…attached Victorian era housing of face or rendered brick, chimneys, corbelled capping courses, high solid to void ratio, distinctive rear service lanes with substantial boundary walls, stable and loft structures.” As opposed to providing a newly attached contrasting addition (an oft-supported heritage approach), the resultant conversion is instead set out as a series of separate self-similar ‘Mews’ like outbuildings separated by courtyards.
The objectives being to: Bring light & air into the center of the long thin site. Connect the buildings such that it doesn’t compromise movement and light in these spaces. Maximize the upper-level footprint through the reduction of stairs. Provide privacy from the overviewing flats & neighbours. Provide a self-contained rear bedroom/study above a garage/studio space with separate rear access to the main house.
In Victorian times Mews buildings were built behind large city houses separated by courtyards & backing onto laneways, they often housed living quarters above with the ability to open up at ground level for horse & carriage. Reinterpreting this massing – character not unknown to this site in earlier times - the programmatic objectives are similar with a series of 3 x 2 story buildings housing sleeping quarters above, with a linked open ‘living’ breezeway beneath containing flexible living spaces that straddle 2 internal courtyards.
Openness and light to the main courtyard are acquired through the intervention of an elevated glass-floored bridge (shifted to the south for solar access) & a glass-roofed covered way to the north. Somewhat unconventional, this move unlocks the courtyard providing equal ability to aid privacy as it does aid solar access & a borrowed amenity between levels as one looks down over a manicured garden below inspired by the heritage of its owner.
Externally, the original masonry façade to the street face is preserved and restored. All removed bricks from the demolished rear wing were salvaged and reused on the rear ’pavilions’ ensuring any new work came intrinsically out of the old. When seen from the public realm of Little Napier Street the 3 buildings are viewed in combination, unified by a ground-level wall but also by their material texture, color & solidity. The gesture of repeating a set of arched windows at the ends of each building (with expressed blinker hoods) is suggestive of traditional & local architecture, aiding in consistency & connection between the buildings that is in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.