The Balcony: a Newtown-centric home that explores the engagement and ultimately, the intersection of public and private space.

Balconies and verandas were used as places to contemplate and socialise with neighbours. These spaces afforded a means of interaction, a practice which has slowly disintegrated in the face of a modern society. 

Newtown terrace is a response to the paradigm of engagement – to reinstate conversation between residents and their neighbourhood. 

Newtown is historically a working-class suburb, an ‘anything goes’ community with strong engagement. The suburb is currently a mix of young families, professionals and students living in their slots, stacked and slotted down the suburb’s narrow laneways. 

The close proximity of neighbours and the suburb’s layout enabling a walk over driving, means its community spirit, along with its local facilities, prevails. 

The Balcony is located on a corner of intersecting streets, one a thoroughfare to the train station and the other, a main route to the local primary school. Due to its location, the house is perfectly positioned to engage with its streets. 

“When the opportunity came to add a single room to this corner terrace, the location informed the framework for the renovation,” says Bastian Architecture. 

“The challenge of the design was in respecting the existing building and conservation area while adding a modern extension to the highly visible second street frontage.”

“Given the house is in a heritage conservation area, the dance with Council towards approval was long and protracted. Conceptualised as a large balcony, the new extension hovers above the street and is cloaked in timber screens which open and close to encourage or dissuade conversation with the street.” 

“The process was a lesson in how to collaborate with council while persevering and holding onto a design idea which didn’t fit neatly into Council’s ideas of what was appropriate for the conservation area.”  

“The form of the extension is a result of these conversations – the design manages to fulfil council’s almost contradictory requirements; that new volume blend into the existing building while the extension be clearly defined.”

“This confusion of design direction was embraced and used to inform many of the design decision throughout the process.” 

“There is a constant blurring of what is old and new, new plumbing is fixed to the exterior of the terrace while timber and steel screens provide privacy and sun protection to the existing windows of the renovated bathroom and study.” 

“The cantilevered form suspends itself over the street, reintroducing private living to the public realm. The visibility of the extension and engagement with the street revisits the era when people sat on balconies or porches and chatted to neighboured as they passed by on their way home from work.” 

“Internally the occupants have the ability to control their interaction by moving the spotted gum timber screens open or shut.”

“Behind the timber screens are large glass sliding doors, which when fully open leave only the timber balustrade between bedroom and street, an act which transforms the room into one large bedroom balcony.”

“When selecting the materials for the internal spaces the decision was made to choose materials frequently used both internally and externally to enhance the balcony character of the room.”

“Plywood panels line all the walls in the main bedroom, including the cupboards, and blackbutt timber flooring runs throughout the renovation.” 

“As you move into the existing rooms there is an intentional blending of old and new materials. The original patched and painted brick wall is retained along the length of the building and new plywood skiting boards wrap around the base of the wallsa in the new study.” 

“While there is generosity in the new bedroom, the existing spaces are compact and work hard to provide the amenity required.” 

“In these rooms the material palette is paired right back, restraint has been used and only two materials are utilised in each room. 

“The study integrates ply with plasterboard and in the bathroom the same large format tile is used on the floors and walls which are offset against the white plasterboard above the tile line.” 

“As is often the case in old terraces storage is limited, so where possible new joinery has been integrated into all of the rooms. The joinery and wall cladding in the study meets a large plywood sliding door which connects the study with the hall, blurring the edge of this compact room.”

“The external timber screens are a consistent element in each room with views obstructed or revealed through the Spotted Gum battens.”

“The timber screens are placed over the existing windows of the study and bathroom to connect these rooms with the new bedroom and much larger sliding timber fa├žade.”

“The completed renovation provides key additional spaces: a fourth bedroom, flexible study space and a renovated family bathroom, and a by-product of the cantilevered form is the shelter it provides for the new timber steps which connect the elevated living spaces of the ground floor to the rear courtyard.” 

“However, the real achievement of the new form is the reinstating of the conversation between the neighbourhood and the occupants of the house.”