This project involved the identification, deconstruction, conservation and adaptation to a sustainable use of a rare surviving example of a timber prefabricated house, originally imported to Australia from Singapore in 1852/53. The extant building is the only known example of its type in the world to remain on its original site; there having been approximately 150 Australian examples and others exported to Hong Kong and California in the 19th century.
After extensive research to understand the intricacies and fabric condition of the found building, RBA developed detailed conservation works involving extensive technical challenges (including historic and Asian timber carpentry traditions) and assisted JAM Architects in the design of a rear addition: conceived as a neutral backdrop to the cottage, accommodating the amenities required for a modern inner city home. The addition is set almost entirely behind the cottage, enhancing the presence of the cottage within the street and urban surrounds.
An extremely rare piece of architectural heritage has been recaptured and now sits comfortably in the public realm, able to be readily and authentically interpreted, demonstrating the possibilities of redevelopment at sites constrained by space limitations.
This project won the 2009 AIA John George Knight award for Heritage Architecture and the 2010 Port Phillip Design and Development Award for Best Heritage Redevelopment.
The prefabricated Singapore Cottage is a modest building, but its restoration and conservation (by RBA) demonstrates a revelatory intersection between history and the present, the demands of conservation and the practicalities of contemporary life, which has left us with an inspirational example of heritage architecture.