Finalist 2019

Powell Street House

Robert Simeoni Architects

The owners of Powell Street House, an architecture and design writer and his partner, wished to convert their 1930’s two-storey brick duplex units located in a South Yarra side street into a cohesive single residence.

The design response skilfully combines and captures the essence of the original and introduces new elements which validate and enhance its existing qualities.

The addition created to the rear of the site connects enigmatically with the materiality of the original and features a new steel framed window wall which delivers an intriguing quality of half-light to the interior of the newly created double height space.

Design Excellence

The original house has been treated with a series of insertions, which are revealed as one journeys through the house.

These interventions, along with an addition to the rear, transform the two-storey art deco building originally designed as two separate dwellings, into a single cohesive residence.

A new kitchen and dining area housed within the addition provide a more generous living and entertaining space.

A void over the kitchen gives the heightened space an additional sense of drama and allows a soft western light to filter down.

The result is a purposeful validation of a well-loved building type.

Design Impact

The existing duplex has been re-imagined in response to the new owners’ requirements, to validate its typology and imbue it with new life and purpose.

Long diagonal views through the existing shallow floor plan were achieved by means of new openings formed in existing walls, which serve to create a greater sense of space.

External views were curated through the new steel windows utilising a combination of clear and narrow reeded patterned glass, sympathetic to the original era of the house.  Internal colours were selected to connect the spaces and respond to the varying internal volumes and light conditions.

Design Transformation

The design responds to the original duplex dwelling, by re-ordering and augmenting the spaces to form a single residence, whilst respecting and validating the spirit of the original.

This creates enigmatic and engaging spaces which meet the functional requirements of the client’s brief, whilst maximising the retention of original building fabric.

In accordance with the Burra Charter, works to the existing fabric comprised “as much as necessary, as little as possible”, and the aim from the outset was to understand the qualities of the existing, and to intervene quietly and sensitively, capturing its elegant quietness and enigmatic quality of light.

Design Innovation

The project successfully unites two units into a single dwelling.

The existing building type is validated through its re-use, with the resulting sustainability benefits of re-purposing rather than replacing an existing structure.

New modern tiles and fittings to the Bathroom pods located within existing rooms create a sense of intervention whilst respecting the original era of the building.

Diagonal views have been opened up within the original building to create a greater sense of space.

Opaque glass has been judiciously used to create a ‘quietness’ to the “internal“ light within the building. Dark colours have been used to blur the connection between old and new.

Other Key Features

By limiting and curating views through the faceted and opaque glazed façade of the ground floor addition, an intriguing quality of light is delivered to the new interior space, intensifying the internal experience.

This device combined with an elevated ceiling height and the use of dark colours for the walls and joinery, creates a space which is quiet and introspective, whilst resonating powerfully with the carefully modified original spaces which adjoin it.

Bathrooms were designed with a selection of materials evocative of the 1930’s architecture of the original house, including basins tiled in-situ, and the use of other bespoke architectural elements.

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