In the suburb of South Brisbane, ‘Tolarno’ has been a steadfast and standout icon along Vulture Street for almost 120 years. Our Client approached our team with the goal of bringing their vision for the existing heritage building to fruition, which included repurposing the building in a way that celebrates its ‘Queen Anne’ style and Art Nouveau features, and that ensures its preservation for years to come. Taking inspiration from its previous community-focused uses, our Client sought to repurpose ‘Tolarno’ as a boutique childcare centre to bring further resources to the inner-city suburb and create a community node that celebrates and encourages new generational growth in an area increasing in popularity amongst young families.

With the existing building listed on the local heritage register, it was important to view the project with a restoration lens, as opposed to a renovation perspective. The outcome of this was a design that reinvigorated the existing built form and introduced additions that made the most of the site, including a large outdoor play deck that sits partially nestled by the large, existing Poinciana tree at the south-eastern corner of the site. With our team’s extensive experience within the childcare sector, we identified with a critical eye those areas that could be shaped around the existing building fabric, without severely impacting the everyday operations of the childcare centre.

The project team worked holistically to ensure a considered outcome catering to the existing conditions, highlighting existing site features, and introducing those new elements required for the repurposed building function. To achieve this, regular communication was crucial, most particularly between the Heritage Architect, Arborist and Structural Engineer. This consistent communication allowed us to cater to those more unique circumstances that come with the restoration of a 120-year-old building, including old structural members, water and acoustic leaks, and existing trees with extensive root systems. While the restoration of a heritage building could be considered a more costly exercise as opposed to a new build, what this project brought in complexity it made up for through its value and contribution to the local community.

The Client, Builder and Architect regularly communicated throughout the construction process as a means of identifying potential concerns and minimising the impact these had on both the cost and delivery of the project. Similarly, the greater project team worked together to overcome unexpected hurdles that arose from a site that hadn’t undergone significant refurbishment since its construction. By repurposing the existing building, the cost and purchasing of new materials and structure was reduced compared to a new build, and existing materials were also reviewed and repaired to encourage a continued, lengthy lifespan, therefore minimising construction and material waste, as well as lifecycle costs.

While the brief for this project was to provide a new childcare centre and community node in South Brisbane, it also allowed for the opportunity to truly celebrate and restore a building that is known as a local landmark and that will be enjoyed by Brisbane locals for many years to come.

Alexandra Mee & Kelsey Warlow

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