Alexandra Buchanan Architecture

Merri Creek House

Merri Creek is a beautiful double courtyard house extension in Melbourne's North Fitzroy

The Merri Creek House is a renovation and extension project to an existing heritage weatherboard cottage in the suburb of North Fitzroy.

The project re-imagines the typical house with backyard typology and is designed around a series of landscaped courtyard gardens. Conceptually, the ‘backyard’ has been dissolved and dispersed throughout the plan, creating an arrangement of gardens that each offer and enable a variety of uses and functions throughout the day.

The overarching idea was for each internal space to maintain a ‘green vista’ and allow a visual connection to the outdoors from every room. The courtyard gardens overlap and intersect with the internal spaces, blurring the boundaries between inside and out and bringing light and life into each of the rooms.

The heritage building has been fully restored to its original condition, removing the previous layers of lean-to extensions, re-cladding and reinstating the period details and features. The central axis of the original hallway is maintained and extended through the house into the new addition, creating a continuity between the old and new. As one moves through the house, the subtle level changes help define each of the spaces, whilst a glazed walkway simultaneously unites and delineates the old house from the new addition.

Positioning the service spaces along the western boundary allowed us to free up the eastern edges for the living areas, capturing morning light and blocking out the harsh western sun. The main living areas remain on the ground floor, with the kitchen consciously positioned at the heart of the house. The upper level is reserved as a private kids retreat. Voids penetrate through the plan, inviting interaction between the two levels whilst maintaining necessary privacy for the kids upstairs.

A restrained, low maintenance material palette of brick, concrete and charcoal timber was used to contrast the existing weatherboard cottage.


Project details

The project re-imagines the typical house with backyard typology and is designed around a series of landscaped courtyard gardens.


Through our concept stage on the Merri Creek house we presented 3 options that explored the integration and ultimate use of the retained existing building. The resultant plan being a version of this early one which creates a self contained master retreat in the cottage with expansive family living spaces accessed via glass link at the rear.

Site massing

Early modelling of the proposal on site sets the extension in its neighbouring context and allows us to check sunpaths, light, shade, views and overlooking and make any adjustments

Early exploration of spatial connection

Initial sketches of spaces starts to give a sense of connection and inform how spaces might be used.

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