This Victorian Terrace Extension Was About Building Less After Living in Denmark

Claire and her family started their journey of extending a Victorian terrace in Port Melbourne shortly before moving to Denmark; however, time spent in a small apartment showed that they didn’t need that much space. So, working with Madeline Sewall from Breathe Architecture, they reworked their brief to better align with the architecture practice’s philosophy of ‘build less, give more.’

“We had a growing family at that time, two kids, and it was a chaotic life. And we were thinking, ‘oh God, we need so much more space.'” says Claire. “Everyone needs their own room. We need a second living space. Let’s make this our family home, and let’s make it big.”

Claire and her family moved to Copenhagen, and that experience made them realise their brief was in excess size. However, living close together in such a small apartment was something that Claire cherished and wanted to include in their reimagined brief upon returning to Melbourne.

The Victorian terrace was retained; however, the rear was reworked by Breathe Architecture. Courtyards were carved out to flood the living, kitchen and dining areas with natural light and fresh air. A new two-storey studio at the rear houses a home office, laundry and workshop on the ground, and a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor for visitors and future teenagers.

Recycled bricks are the hero of the home, used both externally and internally. While the bricks are a big tick for sustainability and embodied energy, they bring a real sense of honesty, authenticity and personalisation with imperfections readily on show. In addition, the stack bond formation of the bricks elevates the home, which takes a fairly common material but transforms it into something contemporary and rarely seen.

Brick and Gable House has all the sustainability credentials, with a 6kWh solar system (despite the challenges of a less-than-ideal orientation), rainwater garden, electric kitchen, cross-flow ventilation, thermal mass, double-glazed windows, airtight construction, insulation and recycled materials. However, Claire’s brief to build less is the biggest win for sustainability.

“That reevaluation of the brief, and considering how much you really needed to build, is a tremendous contribution to the sustainability aspects of the project.” says Madeline.

Brick and Gable House is a thoughtful, honest, authentic, and beautiful example of how we don’t necessarily need to build more, and by doing less, we reduce our impact on the planet.

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