Designed around the sun: Wongi house by Ben Callery Architects
Originally built in the early 1900s, the restoration and extension of Wongi house in Melbourne’s Fitzroy North was undertaken by Ben Callery Architects, who had to navigate heritage constraints and a challenging orientation to deliver the finished project.
The brief for Wongi was to retain and restore the existing front rooms of the heritage house and add a new, contemporary addition to the rear that would be unrestricted architecturally.
The owners wanted the finished home to reflect the different periods of time that it was created and recreated, and with council stipulations calling for the rebuild to replicate the original, Ben Callery Architects used detailed heritage drawings as a blueprint.
The restoration of the old part of the house included upgrading the rooms to be much more structurally sound, thermally stable and energy efficient.
The rear addition needed to be two storey to house a bedroom with ensuite and walk-in robe upstairs, and an open plan living room on the ground floor.
“An important part of the brief was for the ground and first floor extensions to bring in warming northern sun, while not overshadowing the neighbouring property to the south,” explains Ben Callery, director of Ben Callery Architects.
The main challenge with the site was the orientation – north to the side and west to the rear – and so the only way to get northern sun into the rooms was through using highlight windows; wide, short windows positioned high on the wall of a room.
“These challenges and desires drove the angled roof and ceiling design, which lifts up to the north to provide natural light and warmth while being low on the south,” says Callery.
Selecting Sun Shading
While the original 1900’s part of the house uses a deep verandah to block out the harsh sunlight, the new, contemporary addition was designed to embrace winter sun, and so Ben Callery Architects approached Shade Factor to supply a number of motorised external venetian blinds and a retractable awning to control it in summer.
“The ground floor bi-fold glass doors are full width to create a sense of space and connection with the small backyard. The folding arm awning over these doors provides great shading in the afternoon and extends the living space out into the back yard,” explains Callery.
Elsewhere, the highlight windows to the north needed operable external venetian blinds to prevent the living room and bedroom from overheating in summer while allowing in full sunlight when it’s wanted in winter.