In renovating and extending this Victorian cottage in Fitzroy North, Melbourne, Alexandra Buchanan Architecture saw an opportunity to reimagine the typical backyard.
Their vision, instead of a traditional rear garden, was to dissolve and disperse the ‘backyard’ throughout the plan, creating an arrangement of flexible outdoor spaces oriented north (towards the street).
The benefits of this arrangement were twofold, facilitating visual connections to the outdoors from every room, and inserting optimum natural light into the plan.
The project, named Merri Creek House, began with the restoration of the Victorian cottage. Alexandra Buchanan Architecture ‘peeled away previous misdemeanours’ to reveal the original four front rooms, which were converted into the main bedroom and parent’s retreat.
‘I am very proud that we managed to retain and integrate so much of the existing cottage into the design and to retain it in a way that it is clear and legible as you move around the home,’ says Alexandra.
The original cottage hallway directly connects to a new glass link leading into the extension with a cottage garden to the east and small kitchen garden to the west.
All the main communal areas are contained to this ground floor level, which extends to an additional outdoor entertaining and barbecue areas. At the very rear is the contained guest bedroom suite afforded with privacy away from the main house.
This property was designed for a family of four including two teenagers. ‘They wanted to provide a house that allowed for connection, but also privacy and separation within the program,’ explains Alexandra.
The upstairs level of the addition addresses these requirements, featuring the children’s bedrooms, bathroom and rumpus area. Voids penetrate through the plan, inviting interaction between the two levels while maintaining necessary privacy for the kids upstairs.
The finished project carefully manages light and space to connect the clients to each other and the outdoors. Skylights along the boundary wall of the living room trace the passing of time and seasons and activate the space, creating an ever changing and dynamic home interior.
‘The client regularly sends me photos and videos of the play of light across different parts of the building and courtyards. They have even sent me a video of the rain falling on the glass roof of the glass link—they said it was an unexpected moment of delight for them to sit in the dining room with a cup of tea and watch it!’ says Alexandra.
‘Creating those moments and spatial experiences is a triumph for me.’