Project Name: South Terraces Alterations + Additions
Location: Fremantle, Australia
Architects: PHILIP STEJSKAL ARCHITECTURE
Project Team: Philip Stejskal, Yang Yang Lee
Project Duration: Claire Holmes 2011 – 2015 (COMPLETED)
Client Name: Duncan and Annemarie Wyatt
Photo Credits: Robert Frith
“I maintain my interest in the ‘project homes’ that populate our suburbs, however, my interest lies in their consistent deficiencies.” – Philip Stejskal
PHILIP STEJSKAL ARCHITECTURE is an award-winning practice in Fremantle, Western Australia, whose focus is on creating spaces that are uplifting and pragmatic. Their ideological starting point is an engagement with the notion of spatial well-being: an insistence that good design blends pragmatic, intellectual and emotional aspirations. Defining their design language to be a little eclectic, they make a conscious effort to approach each project without any preconceptions.
“Regarding our design approach; If there is one overarching aim, it would have to be a desire to extract amenity from any given situation. Be this natural light, cross ventilation, aspect or prospect- 80% of housing stock in our city is devoid of these basics. So we try to lay claim to these fundamental rights on behalf of our clients, whether in the form of interventions on existing buildings, or in the design of new ones.” – Philip Stejskal
Emphasizing on this notion the ‘South Terraces’ project describes an intervention to a hundred year old existing cottage through a series of pragmatic additions and alterations which instill a new relevance into the structure. The goal was to restructure the house into a layered entity, one that would be adaptable, one that would make a subjective contribution to its occupants – comprising of a couple and their two daughters .The brief formulated by this young family was based on programmatic additions to the existing house, while also prioritizing their desire for cross ventilation and natural light.
Located in Fremantle, the house is positioned on a site which is sloping downwards to the ocean and accessible through a rear laneway. With an East – West Orientation, the long and narrow block was characterized by extremely proximate neighbors and a frontage onto a busy street.
Built in the 1910s, the Original cottage was a semi detached dwelling with subsequent additions by European migrants over the following decades. With a diminutive connection to its wider context, what posed as a major challenge were the corresponding physical parameters within which the site sits.
Based on the existing site conditions, the alterations and additions were modeled on the principle of ‘Extraction of Maximum Amenity’ to overcome the deficiencies of the narrow plot, optimizing its potential. Therefore, the parameters that largely shaped the form, spaces and materiality elaborated the need to access north light and cross ventilation. Along with harnessing these natural resources, another challenge that needed to be overcome was to establish a connection between the house and its wider context, which would eventually add a sense of spatial quality to this reserved property.
Exploring the various opportunities possible within the context, based on pragmatic solutions, the four main aspects of extraction that were dealt with included – north light, natural ventilation, contextual linkages and spatial amenity. In addition to this, another fundamental sustainability feature of the project was the adaptive reuse of the existing structure. This ensured that the embodied energy of the original house is reclaimed, reducing negative environmental impacts significantly.
Internally, the house comprises a variety of collective and individual spaces, with overlap and cross-reference between each space. While the existing bedrooms were kept largely untouched, with just the addition of new cabinetry, a slight reconfiguration of certain functions was deemed necessary. The addition at the rear houses a new kitchen, dining and living area extending into a carport that also functions as an outdoor dining area. The existing kitchen was converted into a bathroom, and the previous bathroom was transformed into the kitchen.
The upper level creates an immediate connection to the surrounding context through the additional roof terrace and garden which cast views further ahead. The insertion of a central, north facing courtyard is another gesture which provides playful glimpses to the world outside. Edged in timber decking to retain heat and deal with glare, the central courtyard brings light into the home creating a garden space the living areas can overlook into. The connection between the living area and the courtyard is drawn out and made indistinct through a built in bay window seating, initiating a sense of ‘closeness’ to the garden.
The original home was also restructured to bring it in sync with the new additions. New joinery units, ply wood cabinetry and built in furniture made the original spaces more functional and weaves together old and new. The division of spaces, use, functionality and the transition between functions is negotiated as a blurred boundary highlighting the ideology of flexible spaces.
The use of hinged timber panels and adjustable louvers in places such as the bay window in the living area add a variable layer to the external facade that secures cross ventilation and ensures thermal comfort. Another passive strategy to make heating and cooling more efficient was to create zones within the house through partitions and doors. A pivot door zones off front bedrooms from the living spaces, and a concealed sliding door isolates the rear of the house.
The extension negotiates a 1.5 m level change to the rear of the site, incorporating a split level corridor internally and brick terracing externally. These level changes provide informal sitting opportunities, as well as spatial definition to the central courtyard.
The extraction of North light and its permeability into the spaces was a foremost and eventually gave character to the individual rooms. Due to the east-west orientation and densely built up surrounds this could only be achieved at a height; hence four different approaches were adopted to attain warm, well lit interiors.
The first approach was to carve a north-facing courtyard into the heart of the building. The second was to collect light at a high level through tall funnels-light scoops and permeate it to the lower level. These light funnels serve the dual purpose of capturing light along with allowing natural ventilation to seep in. The third approach involved creating raised terraces at first floor and roof levels to funnel morning winter sun into the central courtyard. The fourth method comprised of pushing out the northern boundary to bounce light into the interior spaces.
While the light is initiated into the house through various techniques, the associated glare needed to be reduced. Therefore, once secured, the light is mitigated by perforated lattice screens, deep reveals and colored surfaces. Similarly, the east and west facing openings were covered with a porous, cost effective Hardie-lattice screening to enable filtered light to penetrate within, along with aiding privacy.
The external facade is a combination of face brick and white acrylic render with perforated screens and louvers to achieve thermal comfort. The use of materials and their layering served the purpose of integrating the fabric of the old structure and new addition. Although, the house was embedded within a densely knit neighborhood and the project was afflicted with various challenges, the ‘South terraces Additions + Alterations’ is exemplary of its inventive approach of crafting a common architectural language for the old and the new.
-Surabhi Verma, Volume Zero.