Visionary villa

Issue 14 Words: Rachael Bernstone Photography: Andy Rasheed
Parkside, SA
  • The courtyard created inside the stone walls of the original house allows the sun in. The north-facing Trombe wall on the right is clad in Danpalon polycarbonate panels. The courtyard tanks represent only part of the property’s 60,000 litres of rainwater storage.
  • A large retractable shade protects the courtyard and the north-facing wall of the house from the summer sun. It cost approximately $8000 for around 16 square metres.
  • Vents at the top and bottom of the living area’s north wall allow air warmed by the Trombe wall to be admitted or excluded.
  • Clerestory windows bring north light into the bedrooms located on the southern edge of the property. Rammed earth walls provide a lovely warm aesthetic in the living areas and bedrooms, thermal mass, and a sound break between living areas and bedrooms.

In its original state this Adelaide villa was hard to love, but a clever renovation has turned it into a bright and comfortable home.

Having lived in their old house for 14 years, Adelaide couple Margaret Tonkin and Chen Au Peh and their son were well aware of its shortcomings. “While we liked the location, the old villa was very badly designed,” Margaret says.

“The orientation was poor – the northern elevation was close to the boundary so it didn’t get much natural light – and most of the rooms were dark inside because the windows were small and poorly located. Combined with the thick stone walls, the small windows meant the house stayed cold in winter and, once it warmed up after a run of hot days in summer, it was hard to cool down without the help of air conditioning,” she continues. “Even worse, it was subsiding on one side: it had major issues! We’d spent a lot of money over the years trying to address these, with little impact, so we felt like we were throwing money away.”

Having weighed up their options – whether to sell and move on, undertake a major renovation or rebuild – the couple decided to knock down the house and start again.

The family provided a fairly straightforward brief to architects Energy Architecture – keep the front facade, create more space inside and incorporate energy and water efficient technologies to increase comfort – so they were initially taken aback by Energy Architecture’s radical suggestion of keeping the perimeter bluestone wall, taking the roof off and making a garden courtyard inside the old house.

“It was a bit of a shock, actually,” Margaret says. “We thought we would do the standard thing: keep the front rooms and create a renovation behind, so we were surprised when they said we should hollow out the existing house for a courtyard and build an entirely new house behind.”

“The design process aimed to make the new house face the right direction, so we
pushed it towards the southern boundary to open up to the north, which
resulted in the new front courtyard to capture winter sun,” says project architect Mark Thomas. “The new house’s three bedrooms, two living spaces, study, loft and kitchen were
built over the driveway and into the large backyard, to the south and west of the new courtyard.”

A trombe wall on the north-facing stone wall of the living room and rammed earth walls in the living room and bedrooms are two unique features of the design.


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Cover of Issue 14
You can read more about Visionary villa in Issue 14 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Designer: Energy Architecture

Builder: Adelaide Prestige Homes

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