In a city that’s losing many of its heritage buildings, Perth-based practice vittinoAshe is dedicated to restoration and renewal.
November 18th, 2011
This Perth practice made waves with its first project, Hope Street, an alteration to an early 1900s worker’s cottage on the edge of the city. Their impressive work earned them accolades for Alterations & Additions and Small Projects in the Western Australian chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2011 Awards.
Hope Street. Photography Robert Frith
Marco Vittino and Katherine Ashe divide their time between teaching at the University of Western Australia and Curtin University of Technology respectively, and working on a small but diverse range of projects – from residential to competition work, to rebuilding old motor racers and renewing a late 1800s villa in Italy.
Indesignlive caught up with vittinoAshe to talk about their work, and about breathing new life into old and existing structures.
As a practice you’re quite selective with your work. What draws you to a project? How do you choose what to take on?
We generally have preliminary conversations that allow both the clients and ourselves to ascertain whether we are all aiming at a common goal. The type or scale of project is not our primary consideration; it is the type of people involved and their attitude to working with architects. Building is a long and sometimes arduous process and establishing good relationships is essential to the production of good architecture.
Russell Avenue, North Perth
You do a lot of work with heritage buildings. What inspires you about reinvigorating these spaces?
The retention of old building stock in Perth is not a prevalent practice and much of our built history is rapidly disappearing, only to be replaced with often mediocre projects.
We believe that it is always important to ascertain the value of an existing building and much more sustainable to retain existing structures if appropriate, whether they are heritage listed or not.
This may sometimes result in higher labour costs but the re-use of existing buildings is ultimately better for our environment. You also cannot recreate the character that these buildings have obtained: the creaky floors, patina, smell, the cracks and wrinkles.
Hope Street. Photography Robert Frith
You’re working on a project in Italy – is this a labour of love?
Yes, it’s an ongoing labour of love that may not ever be completed. It is really just glorified maintenance to an old family home that has great sentimental value and is in a beautiful part of the world. Regrettably we don’t get to visit it often enough, but the old house is patient and we are learning to let go and let it unfold slowly.
What is peculiar/unique about designing/building in Perth as opposed to elsewhere in Australia?
The costs, although we are told this is problematic everywhere!
Read more on vittinoAshe and their Hope Street project in the Perth special of Issue 47 of Indesign magazine, available now.
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