When our clients for the Park Road project came to us – it was initially an interior design project. The clients had plans and our job initially was to design a fit out for the house project. But there were elements that did not work the way the client wanted and as a result we started from scratch and worked through the complex planning issues and site constraints that this project presented. The original terrace was preserved – right down to the cornicing, tuck pointing and slate roof and we carried the heights and proportions of the old section through to the new parts of the renovation. The existing palm tree was donated to the Council and sits happily at a Port Phillip Council park for peple to enjoy and as we speak the owners are establishing a garden for themselves and their children. It is a house that is close to the beach – there is openness to the house and a feeling that the sea air moves in and through the house. So even though it is a family home it feels like a beach house and that family life is a big holiday.

This long thin site is located in Middle Park and as you would expect heritage plays an important role in the development of projects in this area. The Planning Department of Port Phillip Council imposes strict controls on heights and visibility. Any new building must fit below a 10degree line that is drawn from the top of the gutter at the front of the house. This line imposes height restrictions on the project and others might see this as a constraint that is difficult to overcome. However we saw this line as an opportunity to create an architectural roof form that satisfied our clients needs as well as Council’s heritage requirements. The sloping roof form mans that the building is not highly visible from the street and as we move into the project the roof form rises to the rear – allowing us to insert high-level north facing windows to the upper level bedroom area. We also set our building to align with the neighbor’s footprint – again so that we could avoid difficulties with our neighbors and the Planning Department in our initial negotiations. We derived a building envelope early in the process and look at the best way to fit out the project to meet the needs of our client and their growing family of 2 children.

The town planning constraints of the project led to the building for the project and enabled us to maximize the space for the clients to enjoy. Throughout the project the house uses a restrained palette of materials of white walls and timber to bring the project to life. This approach brings accentuates the light coming into the space and there is a strong connection between the front and rear of the dwelling as well as between the 2 levels at the rear of the property. This is a project that makes the most of the spaces that connect the different areas and there is an easy transition moving in and around the building.

The central stair is the place where the different parts of the house intersect. It marks the place where old meets new and where the upstairs connects to downstairs. The stair is a generous place light and lofty – it is where people gather upon entering and the busy hub of the family home is a beautifully crafted timber space. Much of the timber is reclaimed timber mixed in with new timber – it is the smell and feel of that makes this space so special.

This is a project where the owner/client was also the builder. As such our relationship to the building process was different to the traditional architect administered project. Far from being a compromise – what we witnessed was a builder taking great care to complete a project for his family. Every step of the way there was a sense that the building mattered more than everything and as such the end result speaks of a dedication to build a home from ones own hands. Thin narrow terraces present a real challenge to plan and create a family home that doesn’t feel like a set of train carriages. Using every inch of width available to us we tried to bring light into the house from different places and connect the parts to create an interesting whole. Working with an owner builder did concern us at the beginning however, we enjoyed seeing the building process become something more than just another building – but rather an object of pride and legacy.

Middle Park Terrace

  • Year: 2016
  • Location: Middle Park
  • Builder: Owner-Builder
  • Photos: ©TrevorMein

Roseleigh Addition
Long Terrace
Terrace House
Collingwood Warehouse