This project is about recognising the spirit of a place. Located in Melbourne’s inner-city opposite a suburban train station this is a re-assembly of an old dilapidated factory building to become a home with studios for an artist and musician. The original building formed an integral part of an urban neighbourhood but proofed to be too deteriorated to be saved. After exploring options of retaining the existing structure we decided to partly demolish and rebuild the brick shell in its original form with the materials salvaged on site. A new first floor bedroom wing was inserted as a lightweight structure supported by a steel frame and defines the living area below. The studios were built as commercial spaces reduced construction cost.
Our approach of retaining the spirit of the original fabric continued into details. Unfinished materials were employed to create a non-precious environment that is easy to use and maintain.
The former stable and later print factory was purchased with the intention to renovate and turn it into studios and a house. Part of the building’s appeal that was its atmosphere, textures and patina expressing its history.
Careful investigation revealed that the building could not be saved with reasonable means and a conversion could not achieve required energy efficiency and thermal performance. Various options were explored: a new house design, prefabricated modular buildings but none suited the brief and made a valuable contribution to the urban fabric in this location.
The driver for our design concept was the contribution of the place to its immediate environment. This lead to partially demolishing old walls and roof, removing the slab and rebuild using the original bricks. Rebuilding enabled the new dwelling to achieve a good thermal performance while maintaining the tactile and aesthetic qualities of an aged structure. Parts of external wall and roof trusses (non-compliant under current structural codes), were kept, reinforced and merged into the aesthetic concept. The new program could be realised with modest and simple insertions and additions.
The plan is linear and simple following a logical functional order and the need to access natural light of varying qualities.
Through a metal clad front door that replaced the original door you enter the lobby on the eastern side. The Lobby is covered with insulated polycarbonate roofing for soft light contrary. Circulation is north facing with high level windows for privacy that allow sunlight deep into the house. Off the circulation spine are two studios with light from above suitable for the intended usage. The music room can be opened up with a large bi-fold door to extend the space for performances.
The open lounge, dining, living room is located at the rear with access to a north facing backyard. Different spatial qualities were explored within one room – a low ceiling creates a compressed space that suits lounge; cathedral ceilings suit the dining area, gathering and movement. Off the main living room we added a lean-to laundry.
A central spiral stair leads to bedroom section that appears to be lowered into the building through the existing roof. The stairwell is used to throw natural light into lounge area downstairs. The upstairs is designed to create a distinct attic feel with low walls and cathedral ceilings.
The Printing Press project pursued various strategies that acknowledge that all aspects of sustainable design do not exist in isolation. A low impact building can be cost efficient to build as well as operate. A building that ‘fits’ is likely to be used appropriately, maintained over a long time and less likely to be altered and demolished.
The decision to re-assemble with materials salvaged on site significantly reduces the embodied energy, transport cost. A compact building form reduces the amount of material and labour and therefore energy required for construction. During its lifetime heat transfer through the building skin and therefore the operational energy for heating and cooling will be low due to its small external surface. The compact and highly insulated building fabric allowed the introduction of insulated polycarbonate roofing which was essential for providing appropriate natural light into the studios.
The residence was designed to passive solar design principles that considered zoning, orientation, solar control, ventilation, thermal mass and insulation. In addition only plant based or no paints were used.
The sensitive and economic use of materials and compact design allowed us to construct the entire building for approximately $1800 per sqm.
Energy efficiency performance modelling was carried out together with Craig Harris from LID Consulting through all project stages.