a beautiful old row house that was also our home: compact, urban and valuable.
about this project
This project emphasises compact solutions for compact spaces. Designing for small spaces means transcending common limitations and creating special places with multi-use functions.
The courtyard renovation to a historic row house unlocked a small floor plan to allow for usable outdoor space. This was done by a series of stack doors which open to the courtyard – allowing it to have good and poor weather options. The puzzle of compartmentalised space and the joining of them was reconciled by allowing the now larger multipurpose space to be the central connector between kitchen, outdoors, lounge and downstairs bathroom. In this, we believe, the house exceeds its original intended use.
The building remains as a historic row house in nature but now with increased family liveability.
a more in-depth look at this project
This project involved the alteration of a courtyard at the rear of one of the existing heritage significant row houses on Cora Terrace, Central, Port Elizabeth, to make it more functional and liveable, particularly for a growing family and home office.
Primarily, the courtyard was envisioned as an inside/outside space (perhaps more outside than inside) and as separate from the original building (circa 1860). In the past it has been an underused area and thoroughfare space divided into smaller portions by several rear courtyard intrusions, including an outdoor toilet. Historically the rear of the house would have been used by staff and for keeping animals.
Due to this separateness and lack of regular use, a simple proposal for an unobstructed courtyard space with some shelter and the practicalities of services and storage to one side was required, whilst keeping an indoor playroom space for children, which could double up as an entertainment area, as part of the ’outside’ courtyard.
To unify these two areas, the various levels have been flattened and the single floor surface of “Astroturf” carpeting has been applied that results in the courtyard and the playroom immediately reading as one continuous space, with the floor surface being appropriate for both areas. Translucent roof sheeting was placed over the playroom space with slatted shading to the underside, defining the overhead plane. Timber and glass stack–away doors are placed between the courtyard and the playroom, so that when open, allow for a larger single space.
One of the characteristics of these row houses are the ‘out-houses’ (toilets) to the rear of the properties. This traditional toilet block to 11 Cora Terrace was extended and timber clad, thereby creating concealed store rooms. The interior store room is used for household appliances and children’s toys that are usually in the way in a small house, while the exterior storeroom conveniently hides dustbins and tools. These services and the concealed bathroom are composed as a rectangular ‘loose’ element under the courtyard roof and are detailed as a contemporary element and minimally, in contrast to the existing late Georgian Style building.
In heritage terms, the approach taken for this work responds appropriately to contemporary heritage theory and leading guideline documentation. It responds to the Venice Charter’s ideas of additions to historic structure’s to be ‘of their own time’ and to be distinguishable from the original as well as responding to the more contemporary ideas relating to ‘authenticity’ noted in The Nara Document and more recent Burra Charter.
Simply, this modest courtyard alteration, on a very limited budget, attempts to satisfy two architectural / heritage concerns by altering the existing roof and outhouse to the rear: firstly, there is increased clarity between the parts of the building that are now visually discernible and, secondly, the original ‘left over’ outdoor space on the rear courtyard in redefined as a primary use space to the house.
We hope that many generations of families with small children will think of the house as a beautiful old row house that is a home: compact, urban and valuable.