Downside Up House – Melbourne

Nestled in bayside Melbourne, 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, pinched in by the main street and a laneway which gives it its triangular shape that tapers towards the rear. As a heritage listed building, it was imperative that WALA rescue the front of house which was in a severe state of disrepair.
The homeowner presented a brief that requested a 3-bedroom family home whilst making use of the neighbour’s double-height boundary wall to introduce a second story 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 combine seamlessly with the front heritage building.
Upstairs, the living spaces now sit above the neighbouring roof-line and open towards uninterrupted city views and light.
The new contemporary facade celebrates classic pitched roofs of old Victorians in the neighbour hood by referencing these triangular shapes in the upper floor’s external batten screen. This 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 poly-carbonate wall on the internal face of the upstairs living spaces still allows for light into the rooms.
A strong colour palette of ‘whites’ elevates the visual impact the house. The irregularly-shaped site also allowed WALA to introduce a “shared garden” at street level; the garden was achieved by angling the new boundary fence towards the house to carve out a landscaped feature. Despite the house’s small footprint, this effort was made to ensure that a part of the house could be shared with the community. Downside Up House is ultimately an exercise in designing “big home features” on a small footprint. The house subverts the typical “ground level extension” approach without compromising light, space and quality of living.

Photos – Tatjana Plitt

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