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An education in revitalisation: BSPN in Somerville House’s heritage heart

BSPN has restored Fewings Building’s Queenslander vernacular, recapturing its former glory while bringing it well and truly into the 21st century.

An education in revitalisation: BSPN in Somerville House’s heritage heart

Somerville House boasts some of South Brisbane’s most outstanding historic buildings, so when it came to renovating the boarding and day school’s A Block, BSPN relished the opportunity. Their resulting renovation is part of a larger masterplan that reclaims the building’s position amongst the heritage heart of Somerville House by honouring the building’s 1920 heritage, expressed through a characteristic brick and lintel construction. A recent name change to Fewings Building (after the school’s first principal and founder, Eliza A. Fewings) completes the reinvention.   

Interestingly, everything surrounding Fewings Building is heritage listed (including the adjacent lawn and garden), though Fewings itself is not. So while demolishing it might have been a straightforward option, it wouldn’t have produced the most authentic outcome.

Instead, removing the weatherboard facades exposed the original brickwork and opening up the verandahs, all of which had been closed in over time, restored its vibrant Queenslander vernacular. These verandahs essentially spill out onto the lawn, providing direct connection to greenspace, while extending the learning spaces.

BSPN Director Cara Phillips explains: “What had been previously lacking on campus were places for students to sit during wet weather. So by deepening those verandahs and introducing brick planters on the outskirts of the lawn, we created all these lovely breakout zones. I was up there not too long ago and it was great to see students using the verandahs – they were really owning those spaces.” 

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Internally, BSPN gave small nods to the building’s heritage by installing new picture rails and ceiling mouldings, and by retaining the original timber flooring and existing staircase. In the new flexible general learning areas, technology is thoughtfully integrated to bring them up to date, without compromising the character of the building. A modern, fresh white-on-white scheme is enhanced with pale eucalyptus accents, warm grey-coloured carpet, Tasmanian Oak trims and green-toned pin boards.

The only demolition that actually did take place was the removal of bracing walls in order to open up existing classrooms. These generously proportioned timber walls were then re-milled and re-purposed as joinery and seating throughout. BSPN’s considered approach has returned Fewings Building to its former glory, while bringing it firmly into the 21st century. Classrooms that now facilitate collaboration and a building that captures the prevailing breezes places the emphasis on student wellbeing, ensuring a comfortable environment conducive to learning.


Scott Burrows

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