Grand Designs Australia

Building Big in the City

Taking on a project in the centre of the city is not for everyone. However, for those who rise to the challenge, it’s always an adventure. But was it worth it?

In the last episode for series 6 of Grand Designs Australia, partners Adrian Light and Elizabeth Murdoch took on a 19th century building in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote, and discovered the realities of working with an old building in an urban space.

The factory was built in the 1800’s as a bakery and stables, and was later transformed into a vinegar factory for the iconic Melbourne brand, Skipping Girl.  The building is a four-storey, red brick warehouse with original concrete vinegar vats located in the basement.

As you walk in, it’s hard not to fall in love with the volume of the building as it’s held together by the two neighboring party walls. The warehouse will be divided in two along the existing trust, with living spaces at one side and open space on the other, allowing light to penetrate all the way to the basement, three stories down.

Three meters below ground level, the basement will house Adrian’s Architecture practice, and above that, filling all the available space within the warehouse, will be a multi-level family home for Adrian, Elizabeth and their two kids. The external open space will serve to fill the basement with light.

Adrian and Elizabeth confirmed the project took longer than scheduled and was certainly not smooth sailing. But was it worth it?

Unequivocally, yes. They have a family home in which their children will build memories, and is representative of them as a family.

Australia has great examples of re-purposed, old buildings that have been brought back to life. Here are a few of our favorites:

MCK Architects Warehouse - Sydney

A young family converted a two-storey warehouse into a three-storey home. MCK Architects were asked by the family to keep the warehouse’s “language”.  Similar to the Vinegar factory this project has a three-storey void running parallel to the length of site, allowing light to penetrate all floors.  The project also includes a floating cellar and rooftop vegetable garden.

Photo courtesy of MCK Architects

Tone Wheeler Newtown Warehouse – Sydney

When this warehouse was bought, it was covered in graffiti and barbed wire, and contained two offices at the rear. The aim was to convert it to two Torrens title homes.  The warehouse aesthetic was maintained with minimal impact to the existing façade. 

Windows were punched into the main façade to allow light to penetrate the building where the main living spaces are located. Two bedrooms and a study are located in the glass-clad second storey.

Photos courtesy of Domain

Splinter Society Architecture Warehouse - Melbourne

Splinter Society Architecture transformed an old warehouse in Fitzroy North, Melbourne into a functional yet vibrant family home.  The building is located in a dense urban setting and is bound on all sides by other homes and buildings.  With this in mind, the challenge was to convert the warehouse into a home that was green, non-toxic, safe, flooded with natural light and had an open feel.

The transformation from warehouse to garden oasis in an urban setting was very successful.  It was achieved with a combination of new and salvaged materials from the site, including the building’s foundation, beams, masonry walls, spotted gum boards, steel columns and, most importantly, the warehouse skeleton itself.

Photos courtesy of Splinter Society Architecture


Jackson Clements Burrows Warehouse – Melbourne

Jackson Clements Burrows transformed the former Golden Crust Bakery in Armadale,
Melbourne into a modern and comfortable family home.  From the onset, the client had a strong commitment to the project, specifically in regard to ensuring the fabric of the bakery and the streetscape were maintained.

JCB was able to accommodate the client’s request in a sensitive manner, with special attention paid to the new footbridge - which connected the two primary buildings - and the overall detailing of the buildings.  As shown in these photographs, the final product enhances and reinforces the semi-industrial nature of the bakery in a sensitive and sympathetic way.

Photos courtesy of Jackson Clements Burrows

So, next time you are faced with the prospect of taking on an interesting renovation project, you can reflect on these examples and get excited about the possibility of the final product.

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