The denser, inner-city pockets of our major cities are particularly susceptible to long and narrow sites that preclude some of our more basic needs, such as space and light. When they took on one such lot in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Port Melbourne, Pandolfini Architects set about to remedy this without necessarily increasing the envelope.

Not only was the site naturally bound by its borders, but – as a century-old terrace house – it was further confined by strict heritage and planning controls. So as not to disturb the existing (and surprisingly well-maintained) structure more than necessary, the architects undertook a gentle restoration of the street-front fa├žade that left it largely unchanged, aesthetically speaking.

However, a more serious intervention needed to be achieved somewhere if the architects wanted to fulfil the brief of liveability. A new addition was sited around the back of the property that, although dramatic in its expression, was invisible from the street. A double-height space was added to this rear pocket, internally clad with a divergent palette of black zinc and textured concrete render, and an adjacent courtyard garden was added to clearly delineate the separation between old and new.

“[These materials] are used internally here to reinforce the sense of exiting one space and transitioning into another,” explains the architect.

“The pitched roof forms of the new addition respond to the traditional rooflines of the adjacent terrace houses but present a contract with their black zinc cladding and clean detailing.”

To supplement the courtyard garden’s bridging function, a large-scale skylight was used to both separate and articulate the new single- and double-storey volumes. This elevated window panel forges a gap in the otherwise solid building envelope, allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the plan.

“The new house embraces the relationship between the old and new to create a timeless family home with a spatial drama not typically associated with inner city terrace sites,” the architect concludes.