Through combining history, art and culture, the St Vincent’s Place Residence is ultimately a place of rebirth. Whilst simultaneously reviving an exceptional period home, the project cultivates a place of renewal that elevates the client’s quality of life. As a modern renaissance home in Melbourne, Australia, this new archetype is developed through a reinterpretation of classical references with a modern sensibility. The client, as a patron, put his belief in architecture, artists and artisans to create an environment that goes beyond surface treatments by inscribing contemplative experiences into the physical form.
The new extension is a cultural bridge between historical significance and modern progress positioned behind a heritage façade. By embracing the consideration of time, the design response examines the pinnacles of architecture and design throughout history.
It recreates original elements that extract and expand upon qualities of substance, inspired by those that are proven to span the test of time. Although the majority of the home is a new building, it is not immediately recognisable as such.
Details typical of older architecture were reworked in the front section of the original building. These details included curved cornices, arched doors, and custom steel fireplaces, none of which are typical in modern construction methodologies but feel at ease within the Victorian frontage.
Integral to the details is an authentic demonstration of an exceptional level of craftsmanship, an appreciation of the capacity of mankind. Even the smallest of details, like the hand-stained dovetail joints along the timber skirting, are deserving of a moment’s reflection.
The modern counterpart in the rear extension uses in-situ concrete, terrazzo style stone floors, painted timber ceilings and bluestone walling to create a point of difference from the front. In a rejection of stark minimalism, the classical details are exchanged for rich textures continuing the hand-hewn character throughout the house.
The substantial art collection explores topics of philosophy, literature, religion, and even science, which lead the way to intellectual discourse. These overtures are written into the walls such as the three-storey light installation ‘Heaven is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens’ by artist Nathan Coley, or the niche installation of the wax sculpture ‘Romeu My Deer’ by artist Berlinde De Bruyckere.
As carefully curated as the art collection, the interior for the house is an eclectic mix covering diverse cultural references across many eras. Many of the rooms are positioned around knowledge, encasing collections of books on expansive shelves and using them as a centrepiece within the custom coffee table in the living room.
A refined, casual aesthetic is created, incorporating unique vintage pieces sourced from Europe and Asia as a direct historical reference. The individual pieces add to the dialogue of the space, each with its own interesting story about where it comes from or how it was made.
Many of the pieces are one-of-a-kind designs by B.E Architecture, commissioned expressly for this project, pushing the artisanal character of the architectural detailing into the furniture.
Led by directors Broderick Ely, Jonathon Boucher, and Andrew Piva, the B.E Architecture team is young, dynamic and multicultural, with a range of personal interests and specialities.
Members of the firm work closely with their clients, builders, and individual contractors to ensure that the finished building expresses the client for whom it was built. The designs are quiet, yet strong, creating a response that is appropriate to its surroundings with an attention to materiality that ensures improvement over time. With more than 20 years of practice, B.E Architecture has amassed a notable body of work in various locations around Australia, with international commissions currently under development.
Projects are deeply grounded in understanding context and user experience, so that the buildings are meaningful and continue to be relevant over time. Numerous awards have recognised the firm’s work and been published widely on an international scale. The firm’s experience in creating sophisticated, timeless architecture has earned them the respect from peers, and more importantly, from clients. B.E Architecture has a long history of excellence for residential and commercial spaces.
St Vincent’s Place Residence, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia
Architecture: B.E Architecture
photography: Derek Swalwell and Melany Wimpee