A contemporary reimagining of a classic Victorian terrace In a sympathetic restoration of Mietta Walsh’s beloved family home, Tom Robertson Architects thoughtfully distinguished the old from the new by honouring the ornate features of the original dwelling while updating elements to invite natural light and create room for expansion. We sat with Tom to chat about his team’s approach to reimagining the space beyond the façade of the heritage building.
Tell us about your approach with contemporary restoration for historic buildings.
Recently, we have been involved in many projects which incorporate both a restoration of original heritage building and contemporary extension. Typically, our approach is to clearly delineate between the two elements, where the new contemporary addition is generally sympathetic of original form. This can be achieved by using, colour, material texture or scale. Often, we like to celebrate the threshold between the two architectures.
Tell us about the ideation process with Mietta Walsh.
This property has more personal significance than we have ever experienced from a client, given the backstory. We wanted to capture the historic value of the existing house, and all the memories that were so treasured by Mietta. We were given a clear pragmatic brief that detailed the size and number of rooms along with the vision.
We went through a rigorous process to test spatial configuration and the potential opportunities and restraints of the site. The new extension is distinctly contemporary, minimal in form and finishes. The restrained palette is calming. One of the strongest features is the delicate relationship between old and new, and, how they appear not to touch. Separated by an oversized skylight, the rich textures of existing house can be experienced from many angles.
What made this project stand out?
The strength of this project is in its simplicity and legibility. The new addition is a well curated series of spaces, all beautifully light filled, and grounded in functionality. Despite being relatively large in scale, the addition is respectful of the original building and all its history.
What practical advice would you give someone embarking on the renovation of an old building?
For projects of this nature, we steer away from replicating the heritage architecture. Instead, we provide a confident addition so that the existing elements are able to retain their original value. In terms of advice, we always remind our clients to expect the unexpected and of course engage a great architect!
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