Deliberate quietness – South Yarra

Powell Street House occupies a compact site in the side streets of South Yarra Melbourne, in a pocket characterised by a visually diverse streetscape. The existing 1930’s brick duplex in a restrained Art Deco style, comprised a ground floor and first floor apartment, each sharing the same floor plan, and each with its own external access. Robert Simeoni Architects clients, an architecture and design writer and his partner, with an eclectic collection of art works and furniture, had been living in the property for a number of years, and wished to unite and augment the two dwellings to form a cohesive single residence with a private aspect.
The existing house had a quiet interior and muted light, and the design was developed in response to this, with a deliberate quietness, and the creation of long diagonal views through the existing shallow floor plan.  The design approach was to retain and respect the existing fabric wherever possible, with the new elements treated as interventions which were clearly distinguishable from the original fabric, whilst being respectful to it.  Minimising structural alterations to the original fabric was also a means of achieving a cost-effective outcome on a limited budget.
Dining, kitchen and laundry facilities were located in a new addition to the rear of the site, with a polished concrete floor. The kitchen and dining area enjoy a northern aspect to the property’s rear courtyard, via a steel framed window wall, which describes a serrated profile in plan, and delivers an intriguing quality of light to the newly created space. This ground floor addition forms a double height volume, which incorporates a carefully located high level window, and was conceived as a quiet space, with ambiguous connections between the existing and the new, the outside and the inside.
A compact central staircase, in dark stained timber and raw steel, connects the two previously separated levels of the building, and was located within the former bathroom space to each level, to minimise the need for internal alterations. Bathrooms were designed with a selection of materials evocative of the 1930’s architecture of the original house, including basins tiled in-situ, and the use of traditional shower curtains, selected for their modest yet sensuous qualities.
The addition, and the new architectural elements generally, read as insertions within the existing fabric, and connect enigmatically with the materiality of the original.  Where openings have been formed or modified, such alterations have been executed in a way which leaves clear traces of the original. Views were limited and curated through the new steel windows utilising a combination of clear and opaque glazing, using narrow reeded patterned glass, sympathetic to the original era of the house.  Internal colours were selected to connect the spaces and respond to the varying volumes and light conditions throughout the house.

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