Defining the Next Chapter – Helvetia by Austin Maynard Architects
With a storied past, Helvetia has worn many hats over the years – as a residence and then a boarding house – and its latest chapter sees a return to its origins. Austin Maynard Architects focuses on the coming chapter as an opportunity to resurrect the original crafted and handmade detailing, and through a contemporary lens, establishes a new sanctuary for the owners.
As an interesting tale of reinvention, Helvetia morphs into a newly defined identity through a combined acknowledgement of the past and present, clear planning and determination. Exemplifying the process of making the most of the existing built fabric and heritage already present on site, the new narrative combines a strong focus on sustainability and rebirth, minimising waste as a core objective. Located in the eclectic and vibrant surrounds of Fitzroy in Melbourne’s inner north, the Victorian-era terrace is given its new orders. After being transformed into a boarding house in the 1960s and further divided into two apartments in the 1980s, Helvetia is now returning to its status as a grand residence.
Respectfully obliging the home’s origins, Austin Maynard Architects created a place of permanence for its owners that also reflected them. Among the tightly woven residences of the area, the owners wanted their own place of calm and retreat, with clear connections to natural light and air, that remained private once within. In a reconfiguring of the existing plan, two rooms from the centre of the home were removed and, through activating the side laneway, the building’s footprint was expanded. The dwelling is adorned with numerous gardens that act as a reprieve from the inward nature of the built elements, and the intersection with the living elements activates each outlook.
Through the central entry point, a generous sunlit atrium creates a moment of decompression from the outside world, acting almost meditatively to reset occupants as they pass through the space. Combined with an honouring of the existing brickwork and texture already in place, the new elements are conceived through a similar textural warmth whilst also standing as a testament to resilience and robustness. In reigniting the home, an extensive restoration process saw the removal of untreatable central spaces, which allowed for an alignment with a desired orientation and for the interior for feel open and flowing – reflective of how contemporary homes are occupied today.
Exemplifying the process of making the most of the existing built fabric and heritage already present on site, the new narrative combines a strong focus on sustainability and rebirth, minimising waste as a core objective.
Whilst the home’s heritage has been maintained, Helvetia is reimagined to respond as an interactive series of spaces that breathe, become lit and offer a balance between being both open and closed areas. In working to have maximum impact with a light touch, Austin Maynard Architects ensures a bright future for the considerate and eco-responsible home.