Nestled in a diverse neighbourhood pocket in Albert Park, the original building was a dilapidated double-fronted Victorian house book-ended by a double-storey terrace house on its south side. The house is located on a corner allotment that is pinched in by the main street and a laneway which gives it its irregular, triangular “pizza” shape that tapers towards the rear. As a heritage listed building, it was imperative to rescue the front of house which was in a severe state of disrepair.

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Project Name: Downside Up House
Architect Name: WALA

Downside Up House By WALA - Sheet3BRIEF

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The homeowner and his family of 4 presented us a brief that started off with the basic functional premise of maintaining a 3-bedroom house at the very minimum, and making use of the neighbour’s double-height boundary wall to introduce a second storey volume to the rear of the property.

In contrast to the convoluted and dimly-lit layout of the original house, the new extension had to be well-lit, feel larger than it is (despite its small footprint), and ultimately marry in seamlessly with the front heritage building.

Downside Up House By WALA - Sheet4DESIGN RESPONSE

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Our design response was governed by the strict heritage rulings of the area. The new addition is undoubtedly contemporary and is clearly distinguishable from the heritage building. It is this distinction that enhances the status and character of the heritage building.

The multiple rear lean-to’s were messy in their layout and clustered in an ad-hoc fashion, so our goal was to retain and restore the existing front of house whilst improving the flow and functionality of the old & new wings of the dwelling. A typical “rear-ground-level-extension-facing-a-backyard” treatment was impractical for this house, so we subverted the status quo by promoting the living spaces upstairs and having all bedrooms organised at ground level. This allows us to borrow inherent privacy and security afforded by a new boundary wall facing the laneway and have the bedrooms feel “sheltered”. Upstairs, the living spaces now sit above the neighbouring roofline and are able to open towards uninterrupted views and daylight.

Downside Up House By WALA - Sheet5FAÇADE TREATMENT

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The facade treatment and articulation of the new addition drew inspiration from the previous forms of the old lean-to’s. The new facade celebrates classic pitched roofs of old Victorians in the neighbourhood by referencing these triangular shapes in the upper floor’s external batten screen. This batten screen not only presents a clear external graphic to the laneway, but also protects privacy by shielding views into the neighbours’ gardens. A full-height clear polycarbonate wall on the internal face of the upstairs living spaces still allows for northerly light into the rooms. During the day, soft daylight illuminates the elevated living spaces and when the sun sets, these spaces become lanterns under the night sky.

Downside Up House By WALA - Sheet6MATERIALS & COLOUR

A strong colour palette of ‘whites’ were employed to elevate the visual impact the house and to give it a crisp and clean look the original building was in desperate need of.

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The polycarbonate wall plays a part in bringing more light into the belly of the home. Rather than succumbing to a traditional solid wall punctuated with windows, we designed this translucent wall to literally be a “wall of light” and emanate diffused daylight uniformly into the main living zones.


WALA is an architectural studio based in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. The studio is directed by Weian Lim and provides architectural, interior and design services across a diverse range of residential and commercial projects.

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The studio is made up of passionate designers and individuals who all share a keen focus on intuitive and sustainable design.

WALA believes that often the simplest solutions can create the most elegant results. Their collective design ethos is testament to this belief as they attempt to harness beauty through simplistic architectural solutions.

Their residential projects form the true backbone of the studio. The studio takes pride in working intimately with their clients with particular emphasis placed on ensuring that each new home enhances the clients’ lifestyle and sense of individuality.

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Weian Lim


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022