Naturally Responsive – Tsubo Niwa by Matt Elkan Architect

Words by Bronwyn Marshall
Architecture by Matt Elkan Architect
Photography by Clinton Weaver
Interior Design by Matt Elkan Architect
Landscape Designer Even Spaces

Inspired by the generous surrounding landscape, Tsubo Niwa celebrates life amongst the natural elements through an open and outward focus. Matt Elkan Architect draws on a base of simplicity to propose an addition to an existing established home within a conservation area in North Sydney.

As an addition to an existing home, Tsubo Niwa takes its name through its meaning of ‘small town garden’ – an expression of its offering to the area. Its unique L-shaped arrangement, together with its immersion within an important green strip of Sydney, inspired the approach, focusing on the natural through a deliberately light touch. Timber presents as the most prominent material throughout, wrapping the new form externally whilst also adding texture and warmth internally. The aim was to create an addition that opens to the surrounds and becomes a welcoming embrace of the landscape. Matt Elkan Architect worked closely with the owners who have lived in the original home for 40 years to ensure the addition also captured them in the process.

Its unique L-shaped arrangement, together with its immersion within an important green strip of Sydney, inspired the approach, focusing on the natural through a deliberately light touch.

In its positioning across from the north of Sydney CDB, Tsubo Niwa is built by Lighthouse Building and is anchored as a focal point with landscape design by Even Spaces. Evolving from the original four-bedroom cottage form, the original use of timber is reinterpreted in a contemporary way while being respectful in scale and connection between old and new. Under the new skillion roof form, the new spaces gather as interconnected zones that open into one another and the outside. As a counter to the existing home that was void of light and felt inwardly focused, the proposal aimed to balance the original home’s feel with new light and openness.

To control privacy and screening, timber and mesh frames surround the new form and open and close as needed. The screens also offer an element of animation as light filters through into the interiors throughout the day, bringing shadows and dappled light in the process. A combination of timber is used throughout, featuring Blackbutt on the exterior and mixed timbers used internally. Whilst underfloor heating and other systems enhance the everyday functionality of the home, at the heart of the new works is an embedded warmth echoed through the materials used.

As a counter to the existing home that was void of light and felt inwardly focused, the proposal aimed to balance the original home’s feel with new light and openness.

As a calming escape, Tsubo Niwa optimises its unique location and vegetation. Matt Elkan Architect carefully crafts a fitting evolution to the original home, both paying homage to its original structure whilst refreshing the build with modern touches.