Design responses on duplex or paired dwelling sites
Are there any implications for design responses on sites that are part of a duplex or pair of buildings?
On occasions, the Tribunal is called to consider this very question. Recently, in Ebeyer v Yarra CC  VCAT 213, the Tribunal said [19-21]:
In D’Andrea v Boroondara CC  VCAT 1430, the Tribunal considered an application for a double storey addition to one of a pair of Victorian dwellings. In that decision the Tribunal discussed the difficulties in constructing additions to Victorian matched pairs:
Successful extensions and alterations to single storey ‘duplex’ style dwellings are generally much harder to achieve than extensions and alterations to single dwellings, particularly where there is a desire to add a double storey to just one of the attached dwellings. It is usually the case that duplex dwellings were designed, constructed and appear from the street as one dwelling. Even though they may have two driveways and two entrances, they have a symmetry or balance that can easily be lost if a double storey section is added to just one of the dwellings. Although that symmetry can also be lost with ground floor additions, it is less likely to occur provided the changes are not at the front of the dwelling.
In this case the situation is further complicated by the fact that the building was originally one building. Whilst it has been two dwellings for a considerable period of time, I find that the original building always read as a single built form. In my view it is not necessary for additions to the dwelling at 19 to identically match the footprint, style and design of those at 17 Brighton Street. This would be very difficult to achieve, if not impossible, as 19 Brighton Street does not have the benefit of two street frontages and has three sensitive interfaces to the adjoining dwellings. However, any addition to the dwelling should ensure that the form of the original Victorian building is read as such.
By intruding into the original roof form, the proposal before me fails to achieve an acceptable distinction between the old and new built form and fails to respect the symmetry of the original building.
It is possible to distinguish these comments of the Tribunal from decisions involving buildings that are not afforded heritage protection under the Scheme. For example, in Rae v Boroondara CC  VCAT 354, the Tribunal considered a similar question on a site without heritage protection and said :
The fact that the existing house can be demolished and is not afforded any specific protection under the planning scheme is a relevant consideration. Whilst I agree with the Council and the neighbours that the site and No. 33 have a symmetry, there is nothing to prevent the loss of this symmetry. Indeed, this has already happened to the attached pair at No. 23 and 25, as No. 23 now has a contemporary streetscape appearance.
In our view, a paired building on the adjoining site will always be a feature which design should respond to. However, the weight that design response should place on achieving ‘symmetry’ will depend on individual circumstances.
Please feel free to contact my office if you would like to discuss design options on your property.