The playful aesthetics of Austin Maynard Architects have once again breathed new life into aging building stock—this time with the transformation of a dark and narrow terrace in Melbourne into an open and light-filled home fitted out with sustainable features.
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As with most inner-city terraced housing in Australia, the original home suffered from dark and narrow hallways as well as a lack of natural light and fresh air. What’s more, a 1980s renovation introduced an extension that complicated the floor plan.
Yet these challenges were nothing new for the architectural practice, which has spent the past 15 years successfully regenerating similarly dark terraces. Instead of dwelling on the constraints, the architects focused their attention on the property’s chief asset: laneway access.
Access to a side laneway meant that the architects could move the entry from the front of the building to the side for direct access to the living room—a reconfiguration must-have for the clients, who hated the previous layout, which forced them to take guests down a long and dark corridor past bedrooms and a dim study to reach the entertaining areas.
In addition to relocating the entrance, the architects stripped the 1980s extension and thoughtfully replaced it with a smaller addition that allows for an expanded rear garden. Greater natural light and ventilation is introduced through a new courtyard connecting the old house and the new two-story extension, which comprises open-plan living areas on the ground floor and the parents’ retreat upstairs.
With the main challenges addressed, the architects took a more playful approach to the renovation—including the corrugated cardboard-inspired roof.
"When you first begin to study architecture, in a naive way it seems easy, especially when you start model making," the architects explain. "You grab a piece of corrugated cardboard, wrap it over and think that looks awesome. That was easy. I’m an architect! Then, when you begin to consider constructing the same form on a realistic scale, the simplicity all falls apart. Grant House is a homage to those university days. The design has been executed as if it was that easy. Reminiscent of a corrugated cardboard model, the roof form of Grant—though highly detailed and complex—relates back to that one simple gesture, that one corrugated sheet bent over, to make a simple extruded form."
The shape of asymmetrical roof is repeated in the deck, which is designed "as if a slice [of the facade] has been cut and fallen down." The design decision harkens back to one of the firm’s core design principles: "If you have something to solve, try and borrow from what’s already been designed."
Creative solutions also abound indoors—most notably with the "hidden and secret" cellar. The clients asked for a basement, but floor space was in short supply—so the architects opted to hide the cellar entrance beneath a sliding kitchen island. In the original part of the home where the teenager’s bedroom is now located, the architects inserted a suspended platform bed with a hatch above leading to a "secret" plywood-lined roof space.
Future-proofing was also a design priority. While the owners’ teenage son presently occupies the front part of the house, this area could later be used as a rental, as it comes with a separate entrance, bedroom, bathroom, and living area. The parents’ domain on the upper floor can also be divided into two bedrooms in the future.
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Sustainable principles also drove the design—from the use of durable and low-maintenance materials and high-performance insulation to the addition of solar rooftop panels and rainwater harvesting systems.
"Grant House has been designed to deal with a multitude of probabilities and possibilities, such as how to co-inhabit with a growing child, maximize re-sale and be generous to your neighbors with reciprocal renovation opportunity," the architects explain. "By future-proofing with design forethought, multifunctional spaces can evolve as needs change without having to demolish and rebuild."
Builder/ General Contractor: Sargant Construction
Engineer: Perret Simpson
Building Surveyor: Code Compliance
Energy Consultant: Efficient Energy Choices