Blue Magnolia Nominated for Award

Image: Peter Mathew

A design by MGArchitecture that has transformed a two-storey rubble-sandstone building into visitor accommodation has been shortlisted for the 2018 Australian Institute of Architects Heritage Award.

Tucked behind conjoined terrace houses on Molle Street, Hobart, little is known of the history of the original building. James Sprent’s c1840 surveyed map of Hobart shows a building with a very similar footprint on the site. From its form and location, the building appears to have been an outbuilding, though by c1905, a drainage plan of Hobart shows it as two conjoined houses.  At some point, possibly the 1970s, the building was converted into a single residence.

The considered design by MGArchitecture maintained the integrity of the original structure, allowing it to become a central feature of the build. A series of rectangular light-weight forms replaced the dated 1970s addition. The interlinking of the new forms creates an entry zone and forecourt that allows the sandstone building to shine alongside the extension. Viewed from the surrounding streets, the visual bulk of the new building elements is reduced through the simplicity of the forms and the darker recessive colours.

New work inside the original building hints at the previous layout. Two original stairwells, long removed, are now represented by either a void in the space or visible upper floor patching. Original openings through the thick stone walls remain. The original dual-entry doors remain, with a new main entry located to protect the original building fabric.

The chimney breast is a remaining feature of the early configuration of the two buildings, and both the Tasmanian Heritage Council and Hobart City Council requested that the feature be retained. The chimney breast was stripped back to the original brick, with the second original fireplace uncovered.  New plasterboard linings over battens covered the original brickwork and sandstone lintel and replaced the existing combustible heater with a new contemporary style.

Introducing sun was important, both for light and for solar loading to the original and new thermal mass elements. Overhead glazing above the stairwell and bathroom as well as a north facing glass wall to the dining and kitchen satisfied these requirements.

The build was not without its challenges. A failing retaining wall was rebuilt in part before works could begin, and the limited one-metre wide access to the building site meant the majority of removing earth and demolished fabric from, and transporting new materials into, the site was done by hand.

The project is an exercise in restraint that provides an enhanced level of amenity whilst ensuring that the heritage values of a building continue to be appreciated and enjoyed.

To see more of Blue Magnolia click here.

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