Clare Cousins Architects has renovated a barely peculiar home on a Fitzroy North nook. From the road, the prevailing home may first seem like a wonderfully typical Melburnian terrace – decorous, however unremarkably acquainted. Its quirks turn out to be evident, nonetheless, on finding the entry. Instead of the standard entrance backyard and entrance on the slender entrance of the terrace is a excessive, dense hedge, virtually comical in its impenetrability. The entry sits across the nook as a substitute, in the midst of the lengthy aspect facade.
This lengthy facade is an odd one. It’s rigorously composed and more-or-less balanced round a centred doorway, in an try and lend it the formality and propriety anticipated of an entry facade. But, regardless of these efforts, it isn’t fairly capable of keep away from showing considerably advert hoc. At one finish, it all of a sudden transitions into the recognizable aspect profile of a terrace, with the distinctive curving and stepping parapets, finials and clean balcony aspect window. On this barely awkward duality – “Am I a entrance or a aspect facade?” – the home juggles an enthralling ambiguity typically discovered inside our strange heritage constructing inventory.
It’s also at this enigmatic front-ish-but-also-side-ish facade that the interventions made by Clare Cousins Architects are first evident. The renovation to the rear pulls away from the prevailing facade, which is left standing virtually independently and studying as a partly dislocated, ornamented, delicate airplane shielding a heavy mass – heightening its already present peculiarities. The seen ends of the ties that stabilize this authentic facade look virtually patera-like, tidily positioned alongside the mouldings in a manner that appears plausibly intentional however unconventional – completely applicable for this off-kilter composition.
The contrasting materiality of the red-brick addition emphasizes the break between previous and new, and is instantly recognizable as the fabric language of surrounding single-storey dwellings. The shape, nonetheless, is uniquely its personal: an extremely strong (maybe even fortified) language of easy geometries, slender openings and deep thresholds.
Although these exterior alterations are pleasingly dramatic, the modifications to the inside are comparatively modest. Previous to the renovation, the home had 4 bedrooms, a kitchen and two residing rooms – and it nonetheless does. The one further provisions are a small room with a bathroom on the bottom flooring, and an ensuite on the higher flooring. In different phrases, the mission shouldn’t be about “constructing extra” however about reorganization. That is typically the case in renovations of nineteenth- or early-twentieth-century homes. Residents discover these homes beneficiant in scale however inappropriate within the relationships between rooms. Because of this, alterations made inside this home index some important adjustments in home life within the 100 years for the reason that authentic home was constructed.
The reconfigurations of the higher flooring go away the home, on the giant scale, reasonably unchanged – it stays a collection of bedrooms and loos off a hall. At a smaller scale, nonetheless, these alterations import a form of hierarchy that didn’t exist when the home was first constructed: the definition of a “main bedroom” (now, much less problematically, typically termed the “primary suite”), made qualitatively completely different from different bedrooms by the supply of an ensuite toilet completely for this bed room’s occupants. This configuration, ubiquitous and unquestioned in modern Australian housing, ossifies the hierarchies of the nuclear household. It replaces a subtler order that when outlined the principal bed room just by advantage of its measurement and place. Maybe this disposition served it extra appropriately over the previous century, when it hosted not solely nuclear households, but additionally households of boarders, lodgers and sharing mates, in addition to “indisposed girls” in its transient second as St Michael’s Hospital throughout its first many years.
On the floor flooring, reconfigurations include an change in place between the kitchen and rear lounge. That is, once more, a close to ubiquitous alteration in older homes. It expresses a recent need to grant residing rooms prime lighting and outlook, and to convey kitchens into the center of the house. Nevertheless, it additionally manifests our altering relation to the backyard. Sometimes, out of doors areas are not productive domains or websites of intensive home labour and, thus, the kitchen and different utilities have been unanchored from them. As an alternative, gardens have turn out to be picturesque compositions, as is the case at this home – even full with a folly-like construction on the backyard’s finish, aping the gestures of the home in miniature. Echoes of gardens previous are current, nonetheless, within the inclusion of a productive roof backyard and utility room inside this folly-cum-shed.
Like all good responses to heritage homes, Clare Cousin Architects’ Fitzroy North Terrace shouldn’t be merely an act of preserving, akin to pickling a specimen or making use of a brand new layer of varnish after which appending one thing alien to it. As an alternative, it revels in elaborating, heightening, echoing, counterpointing, dramatizing and reframing the material as discovered, thereby persevering with the narrative that has accreted in our heritage constructing inventory.