A Refined Homage – Symmons Plains by Cumulus Studio
Launceston, TAS, Australia

Photography Anjie Blair
Architecture Cumulus Studio
Words Bronwyn Marshall

Reinvigorating an existing important 1839 homestead in Launceston, Symmons Plains sees an homage to the past combine with a contemporary refinement and functionality. With an acute understanding and respect for the estate’s heritage, Cumulus Studio’s new insertions complement the original with sensitivity.

As a celebration of the homestead’s history, Symmons Plains sees the restoration and reinvigoration of its comprising parts, linked by a series of modern insertions. Through the unveiling of the original structure’s beautifully crafted construction and early Australian settlement techniques, the approach to the new design responds to the homestead’s status as an important part of Tasmania’s history. After having been within the same family for seven generations, in 2011 the property was sold. Now, through the careful interventions of Cumulus Studio, it has been given a new injection of life, combining a contemporary and heritage approach.

Through the unveiling of the original structure’s beautifully crafted construction and early Australian settlement techniques, the approach to the new design responds to the homestead’s status as an important part of Tasmania’s history.

The deeply set voids and opens of the original are balanced by the clean and light-weight glass and steel insertions that connect and offer purposed utility between massed volumes.

The site has its own rich and interesting past. Originally established by colonist John Arndell Youl (who was famous for introducing brown trout to Australia), the homestead was utilised by his family over many generations. Both as a place of residence and farming, the generous site saw the natural evolution of additions and alterations over time across the property, including the addition of its own raceway, airstrip and tennis court. In the hands of its new custodians, Symmons Plains is about revealing the history of place, of materiality and its many stories. The approach was to combine a respectful understanding of the home’s original Georgian elements and propose a contemporary approach befittingly.

Together with two British specialist restoration stonemasons, the exterior was restored using traditional methods, removing dilapidated elements and reinstating the slaked lime mortar. These revival works included the removal of less prominent alterations and additions added over time, which were built out of necessity and without an overall approach to site. Stripped back to its more boldly formal Georgian state, the new additions act as a counterbalance to the heavy weighted original masonry of the structure. The deeply set voids and openings of the original are balanced by the clean and light-weight glass and steel insertions that connect and offer purposed utility between massed volumes.

The approach was driven by a respectful understanding of the home’s original Georgian elements to propose befitting contemporary insertions.

The transparent enclosure takes form as an extruded object that connects the disparate elements on site, creating opportunities of flow internally. It is a study of contrasts, highlighting the beauty and important heritage of the homestead’s past, and combining it with a modern and contemporary functionality. Through materiality, craft and a clearly curated masterplan, Cumulus Studio has respectfully given a prosperous future to Symmons Plains, expressed through contrast and balance.

Stripped back to its more boldly formal Georgian state, the new additions act as a counterbalance to the heavy weighted original masonry of the structure.

Published 28 May, 2020
Photography  Anjie Blair
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