Renovations are always a question of what to throw out and what to keep. Some architects seem to advocate a sort of scorched-earth policy that negates almost all the aspects of the original building. But sometimes the most successful projects are the ones that incorporate aspects of the original structure, giving a home a rich combination of old and new aspects.

A good example of this is a renovation by Stephen McDougall and Lauren Wong of Wellington's Studio of Pacific Architecture in our latest issue. The home is located above Oriental Parade on Mount Victoria in what is designated a character area by the city council. The original 1950s concrete building was already very different from the timber villas that surround it, and it took the architects a long time to persuade the council that it was more appropriate to continue this modernist aesthetic than to make the building look like the villas around it.

Inside, though, much debate ensued over whether to keep the home's strong concrete columns and ceiling supports. The original idea was to create an uninterrupted open-plan space, but the structural solutions required to create this turned out to be highly complex. Retaining the columns and beams initially felt like a compromise, but now everyone involved with the renovation thinks it was a terrific outcome, as the columns and beams provide a helpful delineation of the different living zones.

Paul McCredie's photographs give a good idea of how the columns and beams work in the space:

Thanks to the retention of the columns and beams, what could have been a blank space belonging to any era now carries a strong sense of its 1950s origins, and the home is better for it.