Expanded Focus – Birch Tree House by H&E Architects

Words by Bronwyn Marshall
Architecture by H&E Architects
Photography by Anson Smart
Interior Design by H&E Architects
Styling by H&E Architects
Landscape Design Emily Simpson Landscape
Birch Tree House By H&e Architects Project Feature The Local Project Image (14)

Carefully integrating landscape and built elements, Birch Tree House is the reimagining of an existing home to connect its residents. H&E Architects expands on a storied heritage home to integrate a contemporary sensibility, dotted with considered detailing and refinement throughout.

Opening and expanding an existing heritage home both allows the previous historical references to remain in place and the occupants to also live as though they would in any other contemporary home. Located in inner West Sydney, an area growing in popularity due to its proximity to the city and its layered history, Birch Tree House combines the existing heritage elements of the previous home with a generous reconfiguration internally and an expansion to the rear. Key to all the introduced manoeuvres is the shared need to open and connect the residents both to each other and outward. Through a clear reorientation with the aligning aspect, the active and more passive areas are located based on the best outlook and their functionality. H&E Architects creates an interesting interplay between void and solid throughout, breaking up the whole subtly.

In its richly layered residential milieu, maintaining that existing connection to the street was vital, as was ensuring any additions were not disruptive to the rhythm of the streetscape.

With landscape design by Emily Simpson Landscape, Birch Tree House is built by Boon Building and allows the previous heritage frontage to remain uninterrupted yet restored in place. In its richly layered residential milieu, maintaining that existing connection to the street was vital, as was ensuring any additions were not disruptive to the rhythm of the streetscape. Most prominently, the floor plan is reworked, realigning similar areas and grouping others, while reinforcing the need and opportunity for a generous addition to the rear. The added level above is then accessed by a carefully sculpted series of stairs that continue the same level of detail found in the integrated joinery and junctions between finishes throughout, continuing that story.

Integrating steel and concrete elements, a robust base is created for the everyday happenings of family life, anchoring the home in place and balancing the more delicate nature of the existing heritage elements. There is a unique tension created between the more weighted elements and the lightness of the steel and opened feature windows, allowing clear connections to the landscape and natural light. Contrasts are also expressed through materiality and palette, where light and darker elements allow an enhanced sense of intimacy, or conversely, of openness. The introduction of natural light, across both new and old, then animates the interiors and connects the experience of the home with the changing seasons above.

Integrating steel and concrete elements, a robust base is created for the everyday happenings of family life, anchoring the home in place and balancing the more delicate nature of the existing heritage elements.

Through a careful weaving amongst the existing, Birch Tree House emerges as an open and welcoming sanctuary away from the street. H&E Architects draws from the heavily detailed heritage of the home and reinterpret crafted gestures through a modern lens.