Laneside Lantern is an extension to a heritage house in St.Kilda that uses a lantern-like void space to bring natural light and warmth into the compact house over the top of a lane adjacent.
The main challenges were the small block size, 215m², its unusual north-west orientation and the unwanted nightlife in the side lane walkway. The extension would need to create a sense of space within a small footprint, bring warming north sun into the house while not overheating from western sun, and not expose the family to potential unsavoury activity immediately adjacent.
Heritage regulations dictated retaining the façade and front two bedrooms. The owners, a family of three wanted to update these rooms thermally, structurally and aesthetically. They also needed to add a third bedroom for visitors from overseas including older parents, ideally on a single level. They wanted a central living/meals/kitchen area in which three generations could come together in a space that would feel brighter and more spacious than they previously had, even though its footprint could be barely any larger. They also wanted to go up to provide an extra room allowing family to spread out and find separate zones when desired, and provide for comfortable working from home. They were open to employing space-saving measures like sharing one main bathroom (no ensuite) and using a European laundry. They wanted their house to be all electric in operation, no gas, and be energy efficient. To have minimal need for heating and cooling through passive design techniques and thermally efficient materials.
The main element is the two-storey void space above the new Living room. Like a lantern glazed on two and a half sides, it’s highlight windows bring north light flooding in over the side laneway to passively heat the living rooms and create a sense of space far greater than its tiny footprint.
Double height windows facing the backyard frame distant views of distant treetops beyond this site. A band of fluted glass in the lantern obscures neighbouring rooftops while providing privacy between neighbouring properties. External venetian blinds control summer sun and internal electric blinds keep in winter warmth.
A new wall of recycled bricks against the side lane walkway provides an acoustic and thermal barrier and sense of security, while enabling the house to span the full width of the block. Coloured glass bricks glow within the house when the sun hits and at night subtly illuminate the lane. From within, the obscured glass provides faint silhouettes of passers-by while retaining privacy. From the lane their amber glow hints at passive surveillance and reduces unwanted nocturnal activity.
The void also contains the stair that connects the living rooms to an upper floor space and a roof deck. With a built-in desk and window seat, the first floor provides a flexible space used for working from home and secondary living. With the shift to WFH, Pauline uses it most days and Maurice around half the time. The house comfortably accommodates both working from home concurrently, across different levels.
The first-floor volume is more private, enclosed and nest-like, wrapped by a continuous timber battened screen that allows sharing of light while maintaining a sense of seclusion. The built in seat is enshrouded by a delicate timber slatted awning that provides privacy for neighbours and controls western sun while allowing views into the backyard, side lane, back street and treetops beyond.
The roof deck is an unexpected oasis with views of St. Kilda’s ubiquitous palm trees and rooftops while directing cooling bayside breezes into the house.
The owners are very pleased to report that after a year of occupation the house exports more energy to the grid that it uses. This is particularly pleasing given the small amount of roof that could actually be used for solar production, given the heritage roof and roof deck weren’t available for mounting panels.