Working With The Past

How does one honour the past and pay tribute to it while updating dwellings and structures so that they meet the needs of modern life?

Working with heritage properties presents many challenges. How does one achieve balance between new buildings and old ones so that the former does not come to dominate the latter? Working with past and heritage buildings is like having a conversation with architects from past periods: it requires understanding them and what they were trying to achieve and working out the new vision in the spaces allowed for or suggested by the old ones. Good design requires accommodation, innovation and flexibility. While heritage buildings present many constraints they also present many opportunities. They have a texture and design no achievable: a character that cannot be replicated by modern design. Acknowledging this is the first step towards successfully integrating modern designs with older buildings.

Heritage is immediately apparent in the modern cities of Australia. Our capital cities boast many grand Victorian and Georgian sandstone buildings. The country is also an area that is full of heritage, though there are considerably fewer buildings compared to urban areas and the hustle and bustle of the city. Foxground Valley in southern NSW presents one example. If you look closely you can find traces of a former way of life. The shops, school, churches and milk deposit and post office are no longer present, nor are many of the dairy farms that once thrived in the area, though there are hints that such structures once existed, scattered throughout the landscape.




One of our clients fell in love with the rusted outbuildings of a disused piggery in the area and commissioned our firm to work on building a modern family getaway without compromising the charm of the heritage structures that drew them to the property in the first place. We worked hard to ensure the finished result would look the part while maintaining all the considerations of a generous modern home. From a distance the new buildings, placed so that they wrap around the back of the old cottage forming a J-shaped structure, do not impose upon the landscape or look out of place. From a distance it is difficult to determine which are the old buildings and which are the new.



The new buildings retain the original rustic nature of the property, with complementary colours and materials employed to create a strong sense of continuity and the adherence of a simple box shape in the design of the buildings. A robust material called HW350, desirable for its tendency to rust, was used to help ‘age’ the exterior of some sections of the new dwellings, ensuring that, with time, the new and old structures would come to resemble each other even more closely than they currently do.