bennell way – writer’s retreat

project: Bennell Way – Writer’s Retreat

Location: East Launceston, Tasmania

Description: Bennell Way is a beautiful 1860s elm tree lined walkway leading from the High street down into the town centre of Launceston.

This small project pays homage to James Bennell who arrived in the colony in 1834 as a house painter, carver and guilder and became one of Australia’s first speculative builders, a decorative artist and craftsman. He is perhaps unequalled as the most prolific individual building designer and developer of the colony. The house sits at the eastern bookend to a remarkable largely intact Regency set of townhouses that Bennell developed along Welman and Adelaide streets – these handsome townhouses form arguably the largest example of Regency rowhouses in the southern hemisphere.

The design brief – fix sub-floor ventilation issues in the main living rooms, to make a simple revamp of the kitchen and add a modern but modest intervention to connect inside and outside to allow a 21century lifestyle and importantly a place to read and write.

The new intervention in the rear garden is simply a garden shed, 4 x 6m, with bespoke steel framed glazed windows. It is inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s writing retreat, it is “a place to relax, switch off, listen to music, get some sun and contemplate the garden with a good book”.

The design follows a few key heritage strategies: ensure that the new is not confused with the old, where form and scale are respectful are balanced, and at points of attachment an articulation to reduce physical and aesthetic impacts. These simple ideas make more of less, are without fuss, and allow a heritage buildings to accommodate a 21st century lifestyle and make a place of wellbeing, well into the future.

The new garden shed has had a transforming effect upon a beautiful historic house, a once cold, introverted, unhealthy building now brings renewed joy and delight to a happy home on Bennell Way.

category: residential, heritage

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