House Design | Preserving the heritage of a Bendigo coach house challenged the architect to adapt contemporary design

Old meets new: Bannerman House preserves its gold rush era heritage while embracing a contemporary extension. Photos: Adam Gibson.
Old meets new: Bannerman House preserves its gold rush era heritage while embracing a contemporary extension. Photos: Adam Gibson.

When a former coach house in Bendigo, Victoria was offered as a project to develop into a contemporary family home, Bijl Architecture took the opportunity to explore heritage and adaptive design from a new perspective.

Carved off from the adjacent original gold-rush era mansion many decades ago, the building had been converted to a dwelling in the 1970s, and now sat on an unusual square allotment that created an uneasy relationship with the street.

The client - a busy music educator and conductor - wanted a contemporary family home that would accommodate a grand piano in a salon-style environment.

Given the site constraints, instead of adding a modern form solely to the rear of the structure, The architects "wrapped" the coach-house to bring about a new focal point and balance to the site.

As a result, the addition transitions and flows to the sandstone, without a marked division between heritage and contemporary and allowing the renewed sandstone of the heritage building to be the hero.

The original features and openings of the coach-house - the loft window, carriage and barn door openings - are retained and renewed.

These large openings create views from different vantage points extending through to the new open-plan kitchen and living environment.

The texture of the sandstone walls is complemented by a muted charcoal palette that creates a unified aesthetic through both the interiors and exteriors.

The addition contains the entry to the dwelling, flanked internally and externally by discreet storage for everything from coats and boots through to music scores and instruments.

From the internal entry foyer, the circulation proceeds immediately to the open plan kitchen/living/dining space that flows out to the rear deck and garden.

The new entry is framed by a significant skylight element, demarcating the old carriage archway that leads to the piano room and through to the main bedroom suite and stair.

Taking the stairs to the first floor you see the original ceilings and expressed framing has been retained, sitting over a simple floor plan of two bedrooms with a central bathroom.

The carport acts as both shield and cave, functioning as a multipurpose space. It is the perfect adjunct to the open deck, screening it from the street while providing flexibility and refuge.

The landscaped setting embraces the dwelling, with the reintroduction of a low heritage style fence and cottage garden.

The sustainability of the dwelling has been developed in a number of ways.

The significant retention and repair of embodied materials has been made not only to maintain the heritage value of the original sandstone walls, but also to reuse the existing first floor structure, gable roof cladding, construction and internal linings first installed in the 1970s addition, and to adopt an economical building approach.

Slab on ground construction is used in the new floors, assisting in the creation of thermal mass. While the home can be closed up for Bendigo's cold winters, full-height sliding doors and louvred windows establish natural cross ventilation, lighting and thermal massing throughout the year.

Windows, skylights and external doors are also all double glazed. Overall, simple, robust materials and landscaping have been used in the exterior and interior finishes to provide low maintenance opportunities in the short and longer term.

The architects had a trusting client, a supportive local council, and a truly collaborative building experience, working with an expert local builder BLR Provincial Construction, who brought joy and skill to the project.

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