Heritage renovation done well

Issue 32 Words: Ashleigh McMillan Photography: Cameron Hart
Abbotsford, Melbourne
  • The exposed reverse brick veneer limestone wall, which adds subtle texture and thermal mass, is one of Anna’s favourite features in her newly light-filled house. Salvaged Baltic pine floorboards at the front of the house harmoniously unite the original cottage with the modern extension.
  • Ironically, Anna’s renovation is now used as an example by developers at VCAT hearings to demonstrate contemporary sustainable design in a heritage area.
  • The clever combination of light coloured and space-conscious materials allow the small space to seem bigger than it is.

Architect Anna Lindstad’s passive solar transformation of her inner-Melbourne corner shop is cited as an example of heritage renovation done well, but its success came with a fight.

Drawn to the character and orientation of her quaint corner terrace, architect Anna Lindstad was confident that a renovation, however arduous would reap rewards, but she didn’t count on its individuality creating quite so many hurdles.

The shop-fronted cottage in Abbotsford began its life as a grocery store in 1892 before becoming a milk bar and finally a residence. Anna made a few changes when she moved into the dilapidated home in 1997, living there for 15 years before she embarked on the renovation that safeguarded its future. “It was just really old and tired,” Anna says, “I hadn’t done much more than paint a few things because I knew I always wanted to do this renovation.”

The tradesmen who came to demolish the rear of the building at the start of the renovation couldn’t believe it was inhabited, with little holding up the bathroom, and asbestos sheeting to be removed. Despite its neglected state, the unique shop-front had a heritage  classification of “individual significance” which made planning permit negotiations  challenging. However, it was the hip roof at the rear which proved the biggest headache for Anna. With the council insisting the second-floor addition begin where the original roof ended (instead of the usual 2 room setback requirement), Anna was forced to fight for her passive solar design. “It would have meant having the stairwell in the kitchen and lounge, which would have compromised the whole thermal performance of the living area,” she says.

Eventually, a compromise was reached at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) with the guidance of expert heritage consultant John Briggs, who suggested a revised zig-zag shape for the extension at the upper level. The staggered approach meant the hip roof could be maintained on the street side, but Anna is still unconvinced that was necessary. She says council heritage advisors should also consider broader design principles that support sustainability. “If you just look at heritage in isolation, it often results in compromises that affect the performance and impede basic passive solar design principles,” she says. “It also results in some projects not going ahead at all.”

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Cover of Issue 32
You can read more about Heritage renovation done well in Issue 32 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Anna Lindstad

Henry Netherway

Renovation and addition

Abbotsford, Victoria

(include professional fees)

Land 110 sqm,
House 100 sqm

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