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Grieve Gillett Andersen has been a leader in heritage architecture for over 20 years and we continue to deliver a range of services from heritage advice and conservation works to renewal projects that adapt older buildings for today's modern needs.

We approach every heritage project with the attitude – do as little as possible and as much as necessary – to deliver high quality design solutions that conserve and enhance the heritage values, while respecting the contemporary needs of owners, users and governments. We adaptively reuse spaces and create modern insertions that breathe new life into an existing building, allowing for new functional uses that can be enjoyed sustainably by future generations.

Associate Elizabeth Little shares her recent experience as the Heritage Architect on two recent adaptive reuse projects within State Heritage-listed buildings at Loreto College and St Mary’s College.

The first thought I had after walking into the Acacias building was ‘wow’, followed pretty closely by ‘how are we going to do anything in these spaces?’. The rich and largely original interiors were almost overwhelming, probably not assisted by poor lighting and years of accumulated ‘stuff’ in each room. The fit out of the Acacias had to respect the elegant wallpapers, painted ceilings, and ornate timberwork, but it also had to be robust enough to not get lost. Our interior furniture selections were carefully curated in blocks of colour to complement the highly detailed interiors, while repurposed older furniture pieces provide a historical continuity and sense of modesty to the character of each space.

The one room where we had a bit more scope was to become the office and waiting area for Principal’s Assistant, and here we were able to introduce new wallpaper. Selecting something that would suit the look of the space, and also meet current fire resistance codes proved more difficult than you would expect. We introduced new, contemporary light fittings that work within the large volumes, and provide a suitable level of light for what are now heavily used office spaces. Custom designed workstations are clearly contemporary insertions, but sit comfortably amongst the refurbished antiques.

Conversely, our first look at the interior of the Boylan Building at St Mary’s College drew a slightly different reaction. Gutted and refitted from a two-storey building to three storeys in the 1970s, very few remnants of the former glory of the building remained, and the ceiling height was compromised to say the least. Our approach here was to strip out absolutely everything that was not structural, and start over with pretty much a clean slate. The space is divided into administrative and teaching spaces, with a consistent palette of materials that flows through both areas.

The biggest intervention at St Mary’s was the construction of a new reception pavilion to the west of the existing Boylan building footprint. It needed to be clearly contemporary in form and language, whilst maintaining a respect for the still relatively intact Boylan exterior, as well as sustaining a conversation with the new Veritas Centre over the school lawns. Here we used self-finished materials, including zinc that wraps the building from the west, and glazed north and south walls to allow visual connection to the stonework beyond.

The difference in each design reflects the way we approach any new project. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to heritage projects – significant for different reasons, found in various states of repair, and requiring a tailored approach each and every time.

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