Project Name: Garth
Project Location: Melbourne VIC, Australia
Architects: Ola Studio
Construction Company: Wade Lovich
Photography: Derek Swalwell
Site Area: 810m2
Built Area: Existing 117m2, Addition 180 m2
Completed: August 2015
Ola Studio is an award winning architecture studio with a reputation for delivering imaginative solutions to a diverse range of project types and scales. Passionate about crafting warm and inviting spaces, Ola employs a collaborative design approach focused on the requirements of their clients and the opportunities provided by their site.
The project under consideration describes an extension at the rear of ‘Garth House’, with the addition being primarily moulded on the principles of architectural contrasts and similarities to the existing structure. Normally, the idea of an extension or renovation might be synonymous to borrowing design cues from the existing structure, such was not the case with Garth House. The approach adopted to remodel this house effortlessly weaves a modernistic touch to the original Victorian home, comprised by a series of cuboids that adopts the rectilinear forms of the original dwelling, but varies their sequence and size.
Built in the late 1800s, the original home boasted a rich history with its low masonry facades, black slate roof, white rendered walls and symmetrical front windows; while remaining in sync with the neighbouring houses. It was important to the clients that the ambience of the existing house, of such significant history, be maintained as much as possible.
Located in Northcote, Garth was once a dilapidated nineteenth century Italianate Victorian masonry dwelling which has since been restored and added to with an elegant and restrained timber addition to accommodate a young family of five and two energetic dogs.
This extension and simultaneous renovation of the house involved sensitively restoring the Victorian architecture to its former glory, while also maintaining the textures and form of the original structure.
In the original house, all the rooms were contained within a single volume, hence it acted as one solid form. For the extension, a slight reconfiguration of the rooms was done to provide additional spaces for the residents. Presently, the existing part houses the three children’s bedrooms, a bathroom and a lounge; while the extended portion comprises of the kitchen, the dining area, another lounge and a backyard garden.
Borrowing from the rectilinear form of the old structure, the extension is a composition of cuboids in varying depths and sequences used to create a series of intimate internal and external spaces. These were finished with a dark black timber envelope to contrast the light colour and heavy materials of the existing dwelling.
While the external facade of the extension reads as a reserved collection of rigid forms stacked on top of, or next to one another, the internal circulation depicts a seamless transition between the old house and the addition.
Although, functional zones subtly segregate the space on the ground level, an apparent connection was created between the internal spaces and the backyard garden. The huge glass windows facing the rear end ensured the same, while also illuminating the interiors.
The interior is a mix of black window frames, a wooden blackbutt flooring, plywood cupboards and panelling; all highlighted by the monochromatic palette of the walls. Black timber battens act as a secondary screen over the kitchen and dining area windows, maintaining an intimate, semi enclosed space within. The upper level of the open plan houses a loft which functions as a playroom, office and a spare bedroom.
The staircase leading to the upper level from the kitchen area is in itself a design entity. With the black polished steel balustrade, the staircase captures the attention of anyone at the entry, drawing them towards the rear of the house.
Keeping intact the old world charm of the original Victorian house, the design stems from the idea of simplistic yet elegant additions derived upon through an imaginative design approach.
While, the Garth house extension is primarily an appropriate dialogue between the elements of scale, footprint and mass of the old and the new structure, it also manages to truly reflect the lives of its occupants.
Both reserved and devoid of any unnecessary detail, the two buildings sit side by side with a calm air of confidence and presence within their landscape.
-Surabhi Verma, Volume Zero.