Downside Up House
Albert Park, VIC, Australia
The Downside Up House by WALA is the complete restoration of a charming heritage listed residential space through simplistic architectural solutions that were used to extract to true beauty of the original home.
The space was nestled in a diverse neighbourhood pocket in Albert Park, the original building was a dilapidated double-fronted Victorian house book-ended by a double-storey terrace house on its south side. The house is located on a corner allotment that is pinched in by the main street and a laneway which gives it an irregular, triangular “pizza” shape that tapers towards the rear. As a heritage listed building, it was imperative for the design team at WALA to rescue the front of house which was in a severe state of disrepair.
It was imperative for the design team at WALA to rescue the front of house which was in a severe state of disrepair.
The homeowner and his family of 4 presented the studio with a brief that started off with the basic functional premise of maintaining a 3-bedroom house at the very minimum, and making use of the neighbour’s double-height boundary wall to introduce a second storey volume to the rear of the property. In contrast to the convoluted and dimly-lit layout of the original house, the new extension had to be well-lit, adopt a spacious feel, and ultimately combine seamlessly with the front heritage building.
The house is located on a corner allotment that is pinched in by the main street and a laneway which gives it an irregular, triangular “pizza” shape that tapers towards the rear.
Weian Lim and his team created a design response that was ultimately governed by the strict heritage rulings of the Melbourne suburb. The new addition is contemporary in nature making it clearly distinguishable from the original heritage building. It is this distinction that ultimately enhances the status and character of the heritage building.
The new extension had to be well-lit, adopt a spacious feel, and ultimately combine seamlessly with the front heritage building.
The multiple rear spaces were convoluted in their layout, so the design team’s goal was to retain and restore the existing front of house whilst improving the flow and functionality of the old & new wings of the dwelling. A typical “rear-ground-level-extension-facing-a-backyard” treatment was impractical for the house, so they subverted the status quo by promoting the living spaces upstairs and having all bedrooms organised at ground level. This allowed WALA to borrow inherent privacy and security afforded by a new boundary wall facing the laneway and have the bedrooms feel “sheltered”. Upstairs, the living spaces now sit above the neighbouring roofline and are able to open towards uninterrupted views and daylight.
Weian Lim and his team at WALA created a design response that was ultimately governed by the strict heritage rulings of the Melbourne suburb.
A strong colour palette of ‘whites’ were employed to elevate the visual impact of the house. The polycarbonate wall plays a large part in bringing more light into the belly of the home. Rather than succumbing to a traditional solid wall punctuated with windows, WALA designed this translucent wall to literally be a “wall of light” and emanate diffused daylight uniformly into the main living zones.
In working with neutral tones, the selection of external and internal finishes became more vital in order to introduce texture via different building materials. New insertions such as windows and glazed sliders are framed in aluminium to contrast against the double-sash, timber-framed windows of the old house. In extending this choice of material, the batten privacy screen comprises aluminium extrusions to achieve a machine-grade uniformity that juxtaposes wonderfully against the hand-laid weatherboard cladding of old.
The design team’s goal was to retain and restore the existing front of house whilst improving the flow and functionality of the old & new wings of the dwelling.
The irregularly-shaped site also allowed WALA to introduce a “shared garden” at street level; a departure from the harsh treatment along the laneway as evident by many other corner allotments in the area. The design team wanted a feature that promoted engagement with the street and its pedestrians, and this was achieved by angling the proposed boundary fence towards the house to carve out a piece of garden at a human scale. Despite the house’s small footprint, this effort was made to ensure that a part of the house could be shared with the community.
A conscious effort was made to ensure that a part of the house could be shared with the community.
The facade treatment and articulation of the new addition drew inspiration from the previous forms of the heritage home. The new facade celebrates classic pitched roofs of old Victorians in the neighbourhood by referencing these triangular shapes in the upper floor’s external batten screen. This batten screen not only presents a clear external graphic to the laneway, but also protects privacy by shielding views into the neighbours’ gardens. A full-height clear polycarbonate wall on the internal face of the upstairs living spaces still allows for northerly light into the rooms. During the day, soft daylight illuminates the elevated living spaces and when the sun sets, these spaces become lanterns under the night sky.
The Downside Up House by WALA is ultimately an exercise in designing “big home features” on a small footprint. The house subverts the typical “rear-ground-level-extension-facing-a-backyard” approach without compromising light, space and quality of living.