This project sets out to capture two sets of ‘memories’ – one, the logic and beauty of a residual 1908 house, and the other an evocative spatial atmosphere for the clients and their four daughters. The design extends the original hallway axis into an exterior walkway bordered by new living spaces: a visual corridor whose third ‘wall’ is tumbling acacias. There was a strong desire to integrate the landscape into this project - with a love of gardening and a reminiscence of growing up among plants between the clients, we sought to create a garden for every room.
The original dining room of the house was treated as an archaeological ‘dig’ – its floor has been lowered, creating a tall volume that one steps down into from the existing house. This allows the suspended slab, soffits and undulating planter to be treated as one continuous concrete element that slips beneath its eaves. A highlight window separates the two parts, allowing light to become the matter that connects the old with the new.
A deepened archway forms the threshold between the parlour and the lowered dining space. A dado upstand traces the original footings, forming stairs, a shelf, a seat, and integrating the original fireplace. At moments, the limestone peeps through. The house steps down once in the dining area, and again at the rear, tracing ground level in section. The original house is ever-present, with its floor level generating a consistent datum in the extension’s fenestration.
The clients sought a balance between communality and respite. As such, the living, dining and kitchen are open, the master bedroom feels remote, the children share a territory, and service spaces are kept minimal and peripheral. A breezeway runs through the house and creates a visual axis from the front garden to the back. A low, linking element spans between original house and extension, allowing the sun to pass over it and onto a raised pool. This prolongs the sunset, allowing the dad to swim with his four daughters after work.
Little of the extension is revealed to the street from behind the original house. The 1908 structure - known as 'the lilac house' in its day - has been carefully maintained. The clients wanted a 'forever house', and brick and in-situ concrete were chosen to lend weight and durability to the project both physically and sensorially. Conceived as a two-hundred year project with old and new collectively considered, the project sets out to counter the short lifespan of many suburban dwellings.