Text description provided by the architects. Designed for a family of two parents, a grandparent, two adult children, one girlfriend, and two dogs, this new inter-generational 290 sq m home in the eastern suburbs of Sydney was an opportunity for us to rethink the ‘art of living well’ in the context of a typical flat suburban block (1/2 of quarter acre).
Light-filled and airy, this dwelling re-imagines the suburban home and experiments with new modes of multi-generational living….
Located about nine kilometres from the centre of Sydney, the surrounding suburb is sandy and suburban, defined by inter-war bungalows in red and liver coloured brick. The usual form of renovation on this kind of site is to build boundary to boundary, in a way that leaves the residents with limited access to sunlight, reduces visual and acoustic privacy, and provides little cross ventilation.
We set out to redefine the suburban paradigm with a design that provides optimal amenity, careful space planning, activates the entire site and creates a flowing series of interconnected indoor and outdoor spaces that open onto an expansive garden and pool at the rear of the house. A main consideration was for the three generations of this family to be able to live together, yet have privacy, so ‘that a lot of people can be together in the house without feeling that they are on top of each other. ‘
Equally importantly in this suburban context, where the surrounding houses are often densely packed together, we wanted to make a house that would be ‘polite’ to its neighbours, respectful of their privacy and amenity, yet one which makes a statement that good design matters.
Initially, we investigated working with the existing building. However, that was dismissed because the original ridged and unarticulated plan meant the required amenity and solar access could not be achieved. Instead, only the existing pool and garden at the rear of the block were retained, with a new internal courtyard inserted to the north to ensure direct sunlight in midwinter.
The clients’ brief called for the main bedroom, ensuite and wardrobe to be located on the ground floor, so that the parents can live on one level only. The remaining bedrooms are on the second floor, east facing, along with a shared bathroom, study and a second living room, designed to enable multigenerational living in the house.
Our architectural language is deliberately minimal, with the white bagged brick base and a dark lightweight rooftop with large dormer windows that is both functional and bold/provocative in the otherwise rather bland streetscape. The bulk of the second floor is minimized by the roof form, its materiality and the use of the dormers. The interiors palette is robust and economical, with off form concrete, exposed timber rafters and white walls designed to complement the surrounding garden.
Early and proper integration of passive and active design elements was essential to reducing built cost and minimizing running expenditure. We aimed to have no sun on glass in summer, yet give generous solar access to south facing living rooms and make effective use of cross ventilation. Passive elements include the way the building is oriented, deeply recessed windows, deep overhangs, building openings that maximise cross ventilation, and ceilings on the top floor that extract hot air at high level and wind driven ventilators. Active elements include operable external blinds, power boosted roof fans, energy efficient A/C, high grade insulation and carefully selected colors and materials.