50 Prince Albert Street

CategoryHeritage Conservation
ArchitectPalfreeman Sweeney Architects

A beautiful federation house had been encased in successive ad-hoc additions with its original grand proportions carved into a warren of dark, uninviting and unconnected spaces. The house presents a single storey to the street and extends down the slope to provide three levels facing west. The design challenge was to reveal the original elegance of the old house, to make connection to the distant garden and to open out to the views beyond.

Incorporating a ‘gallery of light’, the design solution connects the original grand rooms to a Loggia on the upper level, open to the view and the garden. This retains light and ventilation to the formal rooms while respecting them as discrete and original spaces.

A wide new sun-lit staircase improves access to the lower levels and at the base of the house, private outdoor spaces are grouped around terraces, a pool and generously landscaped gardens.


Only those parts of the original house that could not be re-purposed were demolished. Stone, windows and other original elements were re-used rather being removed and disposed. The original and the new footprints of the renovated house remain largely unchanged. The life-cycle costs of materials were considered in all selections.

Innovative sustainable design elements:

Motorised, adjustable shading louvers and thermal glass dramatically reduce the heat load from the west facing exposure of the house. The gallery provides access to north light and sun. Solar PV panels, extensive LED lighting, 7-star hot water systems, rainwater harvesting and above average insulation are all incorporated.

Environmental footprint of the building is minimised by:

So effective are the passive solar improvements to this west-facing house that although air-conditioned, the system has been used only infrequently. Energy consumed is off-set by the grid connected solar electricity generation while the physical footprint of this grand residence has been restrained allowing its considerable landscaped setting to remain.