Neutral Bay House
Neutral Bay, NSW, Australia
From the Architect
The traditional Sydney semi is reborn with a new pavilion that contains living, kitchen and dining flowing out to the north-facing courtyard. Through carefully curated openings, the house welcomes dappled sunlight, embracing sea breezes and the garden view while reused building fabric was integrated, allowing the story of the house to continue through tracings of the past.
We traveled to Takayama and visited the Yoshijima House and traditional Japanese garden houses. We observed that the diagonal view across their grids to a garden allowed a simple space to have layers and a sense of scale than might otherwise be left aside. We were also very interested in the tropical idea of living on a veranda and allowing that veranda to cradle family life with its daily rituals and quiet moments.
An early 20th Century worker’s cottage, the original dwelling consisted of a series of rooms stacked side by side with little thought to function or site. Compartmentalizing functions of a household, it limited living. Conceived as a large verandah, the new design places the occupants in the middle of a discourse between enclosure and the outdoors. Areas for cooking, dining, washing, sitting, playing and living are both intimate but spacious, borrowing from the interconnectedness of function and space, indoors and out.
Making reference to the past ideology of the locale and the history of modernism in Sydney’s northern suburbs, the built form is born of site and context. Lower in scale and discreet compared to the original dwelling, the rear pavilion is highly permeable to morning and northern sunlight. Strategically placed walls create privacy and containment whilst openings selectively curate views.
The brief was a balancing act between architectural experimentation, financial constraints, what would be supported by the urban context, community and the requirements of a young family. The resulting design harmoniously balances these potentially conflicting requirements without compromise or loss of integrity.
Budgetary constraints were embraced. The architectural response focused on the creation of place through shared arrangement of spaces and an eloquent volume. We consciously employed an economy of detailing using common residential methods and humble material palette. Recycled brick, reclaimed from the existing house, Blackbutt flooring and Western Red Cedar doors and windows, all simple and inexpensive materials, formed the basis of a raw but robust vocabulary that exhibits craft and the hand of the maker.
The light shelf, which bounces daylight deep into the room, was designed to keep the sun skirting outside the building in summer but allow deep solar penetration in winter. Above the light shelf operable windows capture prevailing breezes and cross ventilate the space, whilst flushing out excess heat.
Original bricks were reclaimed from the demolished portion of the building and reused in new walls. The roof forms protect the internally exposed brick walls from solar gain during summer but expose them in winter thereby engaging their thermal mass in the overall regulation of internal temperature. Steel and concrete was consciously kept to a minimum due to its high environmental cost and renewable timber was used where possible.