Project: Harriet House / Modest Cottage Renovation + Addition
Architects: Bligh Graham Architects
Design Team: Chris Bligh, Sonia Graham, Heidi Nielsen, Daniel Hall Engineering: AD Structure
Interior Stylist: Caro Toledo
Landscape: Steven Clegg
Builder: JSC Prestige Homes
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Existing Area 115.0 m2 / Added Area 95.0 m2
Project Year 2017
Photographer: Christopher Frederick Jones
This playful renovation dramatically transforms a modest cottage into a flexible family home, with the lower kids level also configured as a self-contained flat.
Conceptually this project both reconciles and celebrates the found condition of the modest cottage/site/street/suburb. Conceived of as ‘PetArchitecture’, it acts at multiple scales within the constraints of a minimal footprint and rear siting. At the scale of the suburb it speaks to the eclectic and fun nature of the ‘West End’ that the clients are ontologically living within – simultaneously quirky, humble, bold, green (and on the left side of the house!).
The dialogue with the street is one of engagement not dominance – the life of the house is visible through large street facing windows. The towers open undercroft enables views past the shaded play space to the rear yard. At the scale of the house the tower piece contains multiple realms within the one form. At ground level a moody rich garden room opens up to a lushly planted rear yard. A distinct space that celebrates difference to the original cottage. At the main house level the tower shapes a high ceilinged living volume that interlocks with the cottage and has a dialogue with the its materiality – vj-lining to a datum then square set plasterboard to the vaulting walls and ceiling above. So within the singular form of the tower a vertical journey is created from shadow/minimal enclosure to light filled room and sky window.
Semantically the tower also talks of the ‘back-to-front’ planning with the ‘public’ internal and external rooms at the rear and the private bedroom spaces of the original cottage at the front. This also dovetails with the generous path to the double height garden court it frames, which in itself has a ‘public’ theatrical feel to it – a place for parties, weddings and fire circles – spilling to the street. Further the engagement with the street works supports the planned ability for the downstairs rooms to be partitioned off as a self-contained flat accessed from under the tower. In this scenario the undercroft becomes the flats external space. Multiple living spaces in urban form.
The compact ‘Pet’ form also has the benefit of minimising new built fabric and maximising space for the garden setting. The strategy for the garden structures are to again achieve multiple outcomes through an economy of means. Privacy from the overlooking house behind, a place for gathering, a place for sitting, access to northern winter light, and the required overland flow path through the back yard.
The minimal new footprint also means reduced cost. The value for money that the additions and renovations achieved was significant. This was assisted by accepting that the majority of the built in under area was prosaic and simple yet hung of one special room. Additionally, changes to the existing main house level were kept to a minimum.
The pragmatics of sustainability are embedded within the diagram and fabric. North orientated living spaces / thin rooms with generous openings for excellent passive ventilation / appropriately shaded and protected openings/ shaded external spaces / space for productive garden and chickens / minimal and durable new built fabric.