Structural EngineerCantilever Consulting Engineers Pty Ltd
Quantity SurveyorDonald Bayley
Building CertifierPeter Boyce
Text description provided by the architects. Sydney-based architecture practice studioplusthree has created a new living platform bringing light, air and space to a highly constrained triangular site in Sydney’s east. In an urban response to the site’s limitations of light and open space, living areas are elevated up to the tree canopy - offering lush panoramas, abundant light and a sense of horizon.
Responding to the triangular site, the diagonal cut of the first floor volume is manifested in elements throughout; from window reveals to planter boxes and outdoor seating. Acting as both cladding and screen, the upstairs volumes is wrapped in a charred cypress, all of which was undertaken by hand, on-site. The design aims to integrate functionality into the details to enrich family living – such as the northern edge of the elevated deck, expressed in a continuous element that incorporates planting, outdoor seating, privacy screen, benchtop and storage.
“The project really came out of a lot of influences from other areas of design and culture that both ourselves and the client were exposed to at that time, such as Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, which involves framing particular views of landscape through architecture” says studioplusthree director Simon Rochowski.
This new living platform created a datum – a continuous horizon line, along which openings were carefully located in response to trees, greenery and views. The depth of the south façade provides a dialogue with the street, with deep reveals allowing casual inhabitation of window seats along this elevation.
Key to this experience is the western outlook: a lofty fig tree set against the city beyond. Providing seclusion from the street and protection from the western sun, a series of sliding perforated metal screens set against the tree canopy filter the light and views, with a vertical gradient of perforations offering privacy to neighbours below and transparency to the sky above.
The cantilevered first floor volume provides shelter to the deck below, and at first floor opens the living spaces out to the north-facing terrace - offering open, social spaces and a continuous view to the treetops. Playing with contrast, materials define notions of inner and outer: dark charred timber cladding is cut away from the volume to reveal pale timber and clean white planes within.
The interior we wanted to be very neutral and recessive, so that it caught the changing light and colours of the canopy around the house. This was combined with natural materials like the timber window reveals and stair banisters – these elements help give the interior definition and warmth” says studioplusthree director Julin Ang.
Within a constrained budget, much of the existing ground floor was retained and reconfigured, focusing on the elevated first floor. Environmental strategies are simple yet effective – living spaces are oriented north, with deep eaves and recessed blinds sheltering glass openings. The western sun is mediated by the fig tree as well as the metal screen. These two large openings, with operable shading devices built-in; provide flexibility in cross-ventilation and solar protection. Solar hot water and rainwater collection are installed, whilst deep walls are filled with insulation far beyond the requirement.
The blackened timber exterior belies a calm, bright interior that becomes a backdrop for dappled light, soft shadows and greenery playing through the elevated living spaces. Raised above its urban context, views over and through the canopy expand the perception of interior spaces, whilst the metallic bronze screen filters the movement of light, trees and the setting sun.