On a tight inner city residential block measuring 10 by 20 metres the re-planning, refurbishment and extension of an 1875 worker’s cottage re-engineers the house to accommodate 21st century living requirements. The bespoke refurbishment aims to preserve the historic nature of Spring Hill for future generations by maintaining the integrity of the original cottage, while invigorating it with contemporary ideals. It is hoped that this residence will guide future sustainable refurbishments of the dwindling historic dwellings.
With preference for a sympathetic adaptation that displays respect through contrast, the weatherboard and timber structure of the worker’s cottage was raised a half storey, while below it a new floor that nestled into the sloping site was built. Falling out to a rear private courtyard, this new area visually and physically expands a compact living space and blurs outdoor/indoor relationships. This lower section constructed from in-situ coloured concrete imprinted with the texture of random horizontal planes of Oregon timber, ties the building inextricably to the earth and the past, while a datum of clerestory windows wraps around the home as punctuation between old and new additions. At night the old workers cottage floats above the additions on a bed of light
A hierarchy of privacy is provided by layering the house with living spaces and studio to the ground storey, and bedroom and bathroom spaces to the upper storey.
Throughout the site, material sensuality is developed by employing a sophisticated colour, texture and material palette. Locally quarried Brisbane Tuff foundation stones from the original fireplace were incorporated into the front retaining wall and anchor the house to the areas history. The sense of threshold at key points such as the entry is heightened by using deep timber reveals, pebbles and dark walls that visually place the visitor beyond the interior and into the courtyard.
Sustainable principles have been utilised throughout. Manually modulated to accommodate seasonal changes, louvres have been strategically located to draw natural cross ventilation through the residence from the central staircase up to the attic, expelling warm air in summer. A generous overhang to the rear northern façade provides shelter from the summer sun, while allowing winter sun to penetrate deep into the floor plan to warm the thermal mass of the burnished concrete slab of the lower storey for natural winter heating. The thermal glass of the sliding doors, equivalent to double insulated glass, ensures that trapped winter heat is not lost in the evening. The grassed courtyard with its sculptural ground plane (which offers a natural seat for star gazing) is framed by a bamboo screen with cascading water feature below and the warm patina of a rusted steel fence as backdrop. Underneath the grass of the courtyard resides a 14,000-litre water tank that provides water to the washing machine, toilet cisterns, garden, and water feature, while a solar hot water system provides heated water all year round without the need for electricity.