A terrace house in inner Sydney makes the most of its space with an unusual orientation – a long addition to the existing house with a slender courtyard that maximises every inch of available space.
Even in the best of conditions, terraced houses are a challenge to work with. Found all over Europe and other parts of the world, these uniform row houses have an undeniable charm but lack the kind of space a modern family needs. And what do you do when you want to expand but retain the original character of the building?
Australian firm Scale Architecture had a novel solution – they went long instead of wide. Scale’s philosophy is to create sustainable buildings that have healthy, liveable spaces by employing a highly-tailored, site-specific design program. The inner Sydney project was a renovation for a family that needed to expand their space and make their home relevant to this century.
The front facade of the house was left fairly intact with a bricked-up balcony restored and reverted to its original state. “The entire original heritage house was retained as part of the design process. At the rear of the site, a more recent brick and timber extension was removed to accommodate the new addition. The bricks from this demolition process were then re-used in parts of the new building. The front heritage facade was also restored to the interior of the existing house,” explains Jennifer McMaster of Scale Architecture.
The new addition was a simple structure – two rectangular forms; one on the ground floor, the other on the top, fill the rear courtyard. The ground floor has “a concrete volume, which opens north to the long garden court”. Concrete floors and ceilings and the incorporation of recycled bricks salvaged from the renovation work give the kitchen a unique and modern feel, while still retaining an elegant air good enough to be a part of the old house.
A long concrete island with an inbuilt sink is roomy enough to include an eating space. Leggy white chairs slide under the counter, making this a true family room, one which encourages people to gather here.
The new kitchen and living areas have that elusive quality of expansive space, thanks to the seamless integration with the outdoors. Sliding glass doors, when pushed back, connect the kitchen to the courtyard outside. A long dining table in the courtyard is the perfect spot for an alfresco meal in all seasons, as it is protected by the overhang of the first floor.
The cantilevered timber box floating above the ground floor holds the main suite with a new bedroom. The old part of the house has two more bedrooms. This timber box opens east to a roof garden, increasing the sheer area to play around with.
“The roof garden provides the bedroom with a lookout, and also insulates the study below. The plants that have been used are a combination of water loving species and drought resistant ones,” says McMaster. The garden, with its flowers and grass also acts as a buffer against the neighbouring terraces.
By the simple act of keeping a gap between the rear boundary wall and the new addition, the architects also brought in lots of light from all sides and kept the new space from feeling too boxy.
What makes this project special is that the architects increased living space without cutting out green spaces. Each interior space relates to a new garden room, expanding the spatial relationship beyond the building envelope.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Brett Boardman