Key Dates

18 March - Launch Deadline
15 April - Standard Deadline
1 July - Final Deadline
8 July - Judging
15 July - Winners Announced
10 August - Awards Presentation

Image Credit : Photographer - Dave Kulesza Photoshoot styling - Studio Georg Sourcing & art curation - Bea+Co





Project Overview

Open Shut House is a contemporary addition to a semi-detached Interwar Period dwelling that caters to the growing needs of a large family. The new addition is connected to the original building via a soaring central atrium to create unique interstitial spaces that respond to the lifestyle of its inhabitants.

A series of tiered living spaces cascade from the belly of the house towards the rear, opening up to a landscaped garden. Well-positioned openings bring borrowed amenity into the home to strengthen the bond between its inside spaces and the outside, enriching the quality of living for the family.

Project Commissioner

Private House

Project Creator



Architecture & Interiors - WALA
Lead Architect - Weian Lim (WALA)
Architectural draftsperson - Michelle Ting (WALA)

Builder - Dome Building Projects
Structural Engineer - Measure Engineering
Geotechnical Engineer - Melbourne Geotechnics
Building Surveyor - Singh Consulting
ESD Consultant - Geokal Consulting

Project Brief

The original period building is one if a pair of semi-detached dwellings, with Art-Deco stylings reflecting its Interwar era. The building sits on a long and narrow allotment 10m wide and 60m deep with a rearward slope falling 4.2m. The site also backs onto a cricket ground and a road freeway beyond, with northerly winds carrying the sound of traffic to the rear of the property.

The owners and their family had outgrown the original building and their brief called for an extension that could be future-proofed and able to cater to the ever-changing needs of individual family members, particularly their 4 teenage and young adult children.

The new design removes the parents’ quarters away from the children’s by having the bedrooms housed in separate buildings connected by a central atrium. The narrow hallways of the old house invite exploration, expanding into the double-storey atrium in the physical centre of the house. Moving deeper, the building responds to the land’s natural fall by cascading a series of tiered living spaces rearwards. The space is momentarily compressed again in the Kitchen before the floor level changes once more and the perception of space swells in the sunken living room and garden beyond. Openings via skylights, windows and courtyards not only draw daylight along the length of the buildings, but provide visual relief along the way. Due to the split levels and atrium, the inhabitants can still feel connected visually with each other throughout the house.

Project Innovation/Need

Our studio took on the role of designing both the architecture and interiors to create a holistic design throughout. The eventual multiple split-levels of the extension demanded a focused effort from builder and structural engineer, especially in dealing with a sloping site with multiple neighbouring structures along boundaries. The connection between old and new needed a “light touch”, and creative solutions were workshopped and employed to tackle the challenges of preserving and extending a period building.

As a building of significance, conservation of the front house was imperative. The new addition sought to preserve the front building’s heritage qualities by utilising the fall of the land to tuck itself behind and below the existing roofline, thereby respecting the scale and proportioning of the existing building and adjacent neighbouring dwellings. The new addition is unashamedly contemporary; a clear departure from the architecture of its predecessor in order to distinguish itself and create a counterpoint to the old building.

Design Challenge

The homeowners’ love for their Interwar Art Deco-inspired dwelling fuelled them to embark on a building project to conserve and restore the original period building (that is of contributory significance to Australia’s architectural heritage), and construct a new rear addition that expands on the essence of the modernity and functionality that characterised its predecessor.
The new addition fulfils the owners’ brief to have 2 generations of people under one roof, yet with the autonomy that each family member has to inhabit each space in their own way. In adhering to the spirit of the Art Deco ethos, the open plan living spaces are staggered in such a way as to have specific functions inherently allocated to each “tier” or “platform” whilst still creating a seamless circulatory and visual flow from front to rear.

This project was procured through a negotiated tender which presented the opportunity to finesse the design and obtain real-time cost feedback during the design stages. Many key design features were preserved because of this approach and the position of the overall concept could be strengthened without sacrifice. Scope creep related to the period building was minimised as the refurbishment and repurposing of existing rooms were quantifiable upfront, and the existing superstructure didn’t require excessive works.


The new design was guided by good passive design principles. The extension and its new living space fortuitously face north to benefit from this orientation, as well as capture northerly winds. Large pivot doors facilitate good cross ventilation across living spaces. The skylight wedge over the atrium draws in more daylight and heat during winter months, heating up the thermal mass of the brick wall of the old building and expelling heat in a slow release. Conversely in the warmer months, the warm bricks induce a stack effect by creating points of high and low pressure within the atrium which in turn generate air flow throughout.

The combination of natural finishes & materials (timber, steel, concrete & brick) for the new addition was curated to visually contrast that of the original period dwelling. The movement between the older, austere spaces of the period building towards the more textured interiors of the renovated spaces is also delineated by this clear difference in materials.

This project exemplifies how a well-thought design strategy can preserve and prolong the life of a 100-year-old heritage dwelling, and enable it to adapt to the evolving lifestyles of its occupants over time with a new building extension that feels intuitive and robust. The success of this project is reflected in the seamless marriage of the old and the new – how each building has its own distinctive style and beauty, yet they come together effortlessly as a cohesive whole.

This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow.
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