The exterior of the James Street project by B.E Architecture

Revitalising an early Australian kit home

May 9, 2018
  • Article by Natalie Mortimer

Perched on a hill in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, the James Street Residence by B.E Architecture is a multi-generational, multicultural family home.

The building is made from two distinct parts: a restoration of the existing period home, which revitalises one of the first examples of a kit home in Australia and a modern extension. Together the two create a cross section through architectural history along their location on James Street. The aim was to have the best of both worlds – the heritage values of the site combined with an exaggeration of the possibility of the future.

House on James Street by B.E Architecture
The clean-lined, modern extension

Each component creates its own distinct vernacular. The period building visibly restores, renovates and brings back from the brink of demolition the heritage workers cottage and intact outhouse.

“Most clients and architects would have looked at the existing building with despair but for this project the site and house have been turned into a massive opportunity to salvage a piece of history and the lifestyle it represents,” explains B.E Architects.

The joining of the two site at James Street
The buildings two are connected by a glazed link which creates a clear visual separation from the street emphasising which is from the past and which is from the present.

“Given the state of the existing building, it was a full resurrection. The redesign reinstated the architectural elements of the veranda, French doors and timber weather boards. The internal structure and frame was rebuilt and re-straightened creating a new internal skin within the weathered existing skin. The new internal plan respects all existing external openings. The interiors continued the external detailing and materiality with timber lined rooms and joinery and modern reinterpretations of decorative period details.”

New open plan kitchen with black steel detailing
New open plan kitchen with black steel detailing

In contrast, the new extension is a two-story sculptural form that twists from a single point to create setbacks and overhangs, which track the sun to create shade for the ground level and courtyard space. The new cantilevered upper level focuses the master suite towards the city skyline – a sightline that would have been otherwise obscured by neighbouring buildings. The building uses an architectural language of metal and mirrored glass, expressed verticality.

Timber-lined ceiling follows the pitched roof in the formal dining room
A timber-lined ceiling follows the pitched roof in the formal dining room

The two are connected by a glazed link which creates a clear visual separation from the street, emphasising which is from the past and which is from the present. Internally, this also allows the owners to stand in between the 19th and 21st century, unmistakably identifying each in direct contrast. The house is surrounded by gardens and the link also allows for verdant moments to come into the core of the building.

Powder room in the heritage portion of the house
Powder room in the heritage portion of the house

Photography by Peter Clarke

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