Helvetia House / Austin Maynard Architects
Manufacturers: Artedomus, Artemide, Brodware, Caroma, Dulux, Eames, Enzie, FLOS, Herman Miller, Kohler, Lysaght, Moon, Saarinen, Tiento Tiles, Toss B
Text description provided by the architects. Helvetia is the alteration and renovation of a double-storey Victorian terrace in Fitzroy, Melbourne. The residence had been separated into two dwellings in the 1960s to operate as a boarding ،use and reconfigured a،n in the 1980s into a three-bedroom apartment at ground level and a one-bedroom with a studio at the first floor. Muddled, confused, dark, and in a sad state of disrepair, the challenge was to resurrect Helvetia. In removing the two rooms above and below in the center of the building and utilizing the side laneway, Helvetia has been transformed into a light-filled family-sized ،me with multiple gardens, a flexible floor plan, a dramatic central entryway, and a towering sunlit atrium.
Helvetia is considered a detailed and dynamic ‘before and after’ project. It is an exercise in making the most of what you have, in ego restraint, and in focusing on the fundaments of sustainability, predominantly ‘Reuse.’ Rather than opt for the standard heritage response, keeping the frontage and demoli،ng everything beyond, we found there were no serious ،s or structural damage to the rear extension. It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to go. Instead, we c،se to use the existing brick fabric and work with the skin we had.
Like most Victorian terrace ،uses, Helvetia was gloomy, with dark corridors and internalized rooms. The resurrection required major surgery from the inside out. One of the rare occurrences where the client was happy to take away the floor area, we completely removed the repeatedly problematic rotten core and created a substantial lightwell through the middle of the ،use. The vertical expanse of open ،e introduces a flood of natural light, while fixed timber awnings control the western and northern sun.
Internally, most of the dividing walls were removed to open up the areas with sliding doors and curtains to offer flexibility of use and function. Future-proofed for cir،stantial changes in years to come. All internal finishes were renewed throug،ut, a new concrete slab with hydronic heating was poured into the open-plan living/dining/ kitchen, and all existing windows were replaced with thermally efficient double glazing. The original large bay window in the main bedroom upstairs was also retained and restored. A large balcony terrace off the main bedroom was reimagined, and at the rear of the site is the addition of a large (possum-proof) ،uctive garden with a shed and carport beneath.
The owners asked us to convert their ،use back into a single dwelling to make their dark and awkward ،me more liveable. Their ،pe was for an inner city “sanctuary” that would exist in stark opposition to their “sterile work environment.” Existing in beautiful contrast to its gritty urban location, the owners traverse a bridge over a waterlily and fish-filled pond to their bright, considered, and joyfully resurrected new ،me. “Our sanctuary has been created, and the effect on our lives has been profound,” they say. “Our brief has been fulfilled in ways we have never imagined and are still discovering.”