An Exercise in Restraint – Empire House by Austin Maynard Architects
Canberra, ACT, Australia

Photography Derek Swalwell
Words Bronwyn Marshall

Turning their back on the popular and expected course of demolishing the existing to rebuild, the clients for Empire House wanted to maintain the original and celebrate its story. Austin Maynard Architects shared this unapologetic dedication to preserving the character of the area and the integral era the home represents.

Sitting amongst a culturally and architecturally integral area of Canberra, the original home was an exemplar of the local housing stock that the clients and architects were driven to preserve. Confronted with the question of how to extend, while sensitively approaching the existing, the team was adamant not to demolish the original home, nor to simply add a large, ill-conceived attachment. Delving instead into the rear sloping garden space, two new pavilions were conceived as a way to add the required amenity, expanding the home’s program and offering built conditions that engage directly with the lush landscape setting.

Sitting amongst a culturally and architecturally integral area of Canberra, the original home was an exemplar of the local housing stock that the clients and architects were driven to preserve.

Set on a ring-road that forms part of Walter Burley Griffin’s original masterplan, the home sits alongside a number of other period homes, that are an architectural manifestation of the capital’s history.

Austin Maynard Architects sees it as the responsibility of the architect to educate and encourage a restoration of our history, where appropriate. Empire House is an example of shared values between client and architect, who were equally unequivocal that the preservation of an important part of Canberra’s architectural history had to occur. Set on a ring-road that forms part of Walter Burley Griffin’s original masterplan, the home sits alongside a number of other period homes, that are an architectural manifestation of the capital’s history.

Set on a ring-road that forms part of Walter Burley Griffin’s original masterplan, the home sits alongside a number of other period homes, that are an architectural manifestation of the capital’s history.

The extension, taking heeded direction from the original home, expresses the hand-made and crafted as important defining details.

With the clients wanting some additional space for the family home, two pavilion structures were added to the rear. Connected to the front dwelling through a clearing in the site, a glass walkway offers a sense of relief in the mass and formally separates the old from the new. The extension, taking heeded direction from the original home, expresses the hand-made and crafted as important defining details. While overlapping shingles encase the outside of the new pavilions, the interior sees timber line the walls and ceiling, adding a welcomed warmth. The thermal mass of the polished concrete flooring helps control the spaces climatically, while the brick base offers a nod to the materiality of the original home.

Connected to the front dwelling through a clearing in the site, a glass walkway offers a sense of relief in the mass and formally separates the old from the new.

Empire House adds to the wellbeing of its residency by further engaging with the landscape, by immersing its residents within two separate, but carefully connected, structures.

Bringing the new kitchen, living and dining out into the garden setting saw their relocation from within the original, and the subsequent repurposing of the more formal planning zones. Opening up skyward, the pavilions make best use of the available natural light to enter the new spaces and provide the opportunity for solar heat gains and releases to occur through the openings provided. Empire House adds to the wellbeing of its residency by further engaging with the landscape, by immersing its residents within two separate, but carefully connected, structures. Austin Maynard Architects, emphasising the rigor and curiosity for which the practice is known, has rightfully preserved a significant piece of Canberra’s history, and created two more highly crafted accompanying pavilions.

Empire House adds to the wellbeing of its residency by further engaging with the landscape, by immersing its residents within two separate, but carefully connected, structures.

Tlp Empire House Austin Maynard 30
Published 6 March, 2020
Photography  Derek Swalwell
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