Doncaster house
Rhiannon Slatter

Like living in the 70s

Steffen Welsch Architects as Architects

Continuum is a revival of a late modernist home in suburban Doncaster. Our practice viewed this project as “departure with the aim of continuity”, based on the paradigm that any new design is derived from a pre-existing condition.


The renovation was called to resolve matters insufficiently addressed in the original design: thermal comfort, family dynamics, privacy needs, relationship with landscape, connectivity and future use. We investigated the shortcomings of the original scheme while acknowledging the cultural responsibility to the sensibilities of its architectural vocabulary and suburban context.


The original plan appeared open and fluid yet restricted activities to small confined rooms. The architectural language was strong but could not camouflage planning inefficiencies: zoning was outdated; internal links were complicated, external spaces were insufficiently defined, hard to access or under-developed.


Our solution was integration and fragmentation. We consolidated and reinforced the existing fabric as a shield from the street to deal with noise, pollution, heat, and weather, and dissolved (fragmented) the rear to accommodate family activities (study, work, sport, entertaining, communing, resting, meals) simultaneously.


The general ethos of continuum extends to material choices and details. Concrete block, stone walls – not part of the original but reflective of the era – timber lining and cladding are utilized to improve thermal performance and energy efficiency, express their purpose, and create identity. Stone walls placed for privacy are built as reverse masonry veneer; internal timber defines and expresses rooms within rooms; high performance cross-laminated timber doors and windows define openings within glass walls. The roof thickness was increased for insulation and to appear to hover over walls separated by frameless glazing expressing fragmentation. Blackened charred timber creates a somber palette, integrating with the landscape.


The retention and expansion of the existing plan and thoughtful interpretation of the embedded architectural vocabulary anchor the unpretentious original dwelling in the neighbourhood while adding a new identity to the original scheme.

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