Video by Compulsive

This addition to a heritage Edwardian dwelling in Elsternwick, Melbourne is a recessive zinc-clad folded form, set within ‘the shadow’ of the existing white detailed brick structure. It was developed by Matt Gibson Architecture + Design through a series of folded computational models which explored the orientation of the site and how the new addition would integrate with the existing layout. The resolution is a highly custom building that reflects the client’s lifestyle while tactfully embracing the virtues of Edwardian architecture.

In the context of its neighbourhood, Shadow House challenges the concept of building low quality replica additions that attach themselves to heritage fabric and in effect compromise, confuse and diminish the integrity of the original. Instead, the new works analyse and enter the spirit of the heritage building through a contemporary interpretation respectful of its context and history.


The Elsternwick heritage area contains many detached early 20th century villas, set within garden settings and characterised by picturesque steep asymmetrically-hipped roof-forms. Shadow House takes a modern spin on some of these attributes. It features two flush-hip roof forms, one with five sides and another with seven, that wrap and fold like origami around the existing building’s southern and western elevations.


Rather than simply attaching the new addition to the existing building and generating potential for a clunky junction, the architects instead chose to join the two with a glazed bridge that runs the entire length of the valley between the old and new roofs. An incision was saw cut into the existing brickwork to hold the glass in place on one side, while the other side rests on top of the guttering on the new roof. Plasterboard butts neatly into the underside of the glazing and a caulk beading hides the join.

Glazed bridge image and detail

Besides glazing, the addition is clad top-to-toe in an Anthra standing seam zinc from VM Zinc that folds over and hides the rafter and joist junction, and flows uninterrupted from ridge to slab. This monolithic effect is benefitted by the architect’s choice for secret guttering and the provision of large wall cavities which house and hide stormwater downpipes and the western orientation’s massive top hung cavity sliding doors. The Anthra zinc chosen is a stone-like finish that is capable of blending with various materials, such as the black slate tiles on the existing building. It is designed to patina with age.

Door/pelmet detail and image

Within the new addition, white faceted ceiling planes appear as a ‘crumpled piece of paper’ draped over a series of internal material ‘objects’ - brick (existing house), timber (utilities), zinc (guest bed and carport). A series of interstitial living zones meander within this field of textured ‘objects’ offering a journey bookended by vignetted views to gardens. The ceilings were formed simply by packing out from roof rafters.

A steel shrouded 'breezeway', adjacent to the entry, provides openness and interaction with the street and front garden. The steel bifold doors are from Skyrange and sit on a standard rebate sill which appears flush thanks to the grass within the planter box which grows above the sill height. The planter box is steel, fixed to concrete footings that are splayed to encourage plant growth right to the perimeter. 

Courtyard images and detail

The design of Shadow House as a whole fosters the utilisation of the entire site and especially the engagement with garden aspects. The architects have retained the landscaped coverage at the same time as increasing the size and functionality of the living spaces. Skylights bring light into the centre of the dwelling, cross ventilation is aplenty and the building is super insulated thanks to the oversized cavities and attic space. Garden views are incessant and the sky is rarely out of site.  Financially, the family will benefit from this robust addition as it maximises the site’s potential and ensures the longevity of habitation.


  • Recycling existing building
  • Passive techniques for improved living conditions and building performance
  • Deciduous landscaping for seasonal building
  • Super insulated, large wall and ceiling cavities
  • Double and tripled glazed Low-E glazing
  • Water harvesting
  • Solar HW
  • Operable external venetian blinds