In a richly considered combination of heritage preservation and contemporary interpretation, Alma Road Residence emerges as a blending of eras and contrasting elements expressed in a sensory immersion that engages the entire site. studiofour unveils the deeply emotive elegance of the original period home and binds its delicacy with a balancing of lightness through the addition of a floating glass pavilion.
When bringing together the existing and the new, consideration of how the two shape the experience of moving through the home drove the design approach. “By providing different sensory experiences within a home, we can create spaces that promote comfort, wellbeing, stimulation and a deeper connection with the environment,” explains Co-Founding Director of studiofour Annabelle Berryman. “This approach goes beyond the mere functionality of a space, creating an enriched living experience that enhances the overall quality of life for its occupants.”
Alma Road Residence is set among an eclectic mix of generous older homes and more modern pockets of increased density in Camberwell, in Melbourne’s east, and the response takes this tapestry into account. “We worked hard to ensure that any distraction or distortion of the heritage form was avoided,” Annabelle says. “[We] felt passionate about its char-acter and were diligent in our desire to restore it to its former glory.” In needing to expand the original footprint to optimise the potential of the site, there was opportunity to add another form to the rear. “An under-ground basement was designed, and the ramp concealed and set back from the streetscape frontage,” Annabelle describes, “whilst the new pavilion to the rear of the existing volume was limited to one storey and its roof profile kept low, so as not to compromise the detailed pitched roofs of the existing Victorian form.”
Believing that sensory experiences can foster a deeper connection between the occupants and their surroundings, profoundly impacting mood, emotion and even cognitive ability, the architects sought to include a variety of sensory stimuli within Alma Road Residence. “Our studio created areas that evoke different positive emotions, improved concentration, and we believe, a reduction in stress levels across the home,” says Sarah Henry, studiofour Co-Founding Director. This was achieved by harnessing the power of the juxtaposition between the original home and the new addition. Requesting dark, nurturing spaces for sleep, rest and relaxation, the owners were looking to balance moments of quiet amid the activity of the day. “The design response centred on contrast, with two architectural forms offering differing sensory experiences,” Sarah explains. “A pattern language was developed to subtly tie the two forms together whilst ensuring the contrast between the two remained strong and focused. Key to this project was embracing the purity of the existing period volumes, [and]adding a new pavilion that offers an alternate sensory experience.
Transitioning from the preserved proportions and intricate embellishments of the original building, where a darker and recessive palette incites a feeling of stillness, the new glass pavilion seemingly floats above the pool’s water below. Scale, proportion and access to light and the surrounding landscape enhance a sense of grounding in place. In contrast to the darker, more enclosed spaces of the Victorian residence, “the pavilion provides the opposite, creating interactive areas designed to immerse one within the landscape and to support entertaining and times of togetherness, each a multisensory experience,” Sarah reflects.
Whilst the period spaces cocoon occupants in havens conducive to rest and rejuvenation, offering profound unwinding and restoration, the pavilion entices a more open curiosity and exploration. “Key to the success of this project was embracing the purity of the existing period volumes,” notes Annabelle. “The interiors demonstrate how form, materiality and detail can be woven together to create a cohesive outcome, but still one of contrast and difference.” The interplay between the built form and the outdoor, natural tapestry also plays a vital role in activating a sensory journey. The once under-utilised rear garden now flourishes, with the glass bridge sitting at its helm becoming part of the home. Guided over water and through a private garden, “a large 70-year-old olive tree was relocated to help further visually protect the bridge link from neighbouring properties,” adds Annabelle, “and by placing the bulk of the rear extension to the west side of the site, full privacy of the rear garden was achieved and the length of the required lap pool accommodated.”
Both as statements of elevated craft and detail, the old and new each tell their own narratives of their respective makers, and through their differences create differing destinations to suit the owners as needs, moods or functional requirements shift. The resulting restored and extended home that is Alma Road Residence takes advantage of the resounding power of placemaking, where light, dark, openness, texture and the integration of nature all facilitate states of wellbeing.