Suitably Disguised and Responsive — Stealth Pavilion by Plus Minus Design
Issue 04 Video Feature
Bellevue Hill, NSW, Australia
As its namesake suggests, Stealth Pavilion sits suitably disguised in its landscape, concealing its presence through select materiality. Plus Minus Design carefully integrates a multifunction volume into an established heritage-listed garden setting, combining are fined and contemporary approach.
Uniquely located, Stealth Pavilion is an inserted volume into a pre-existing well-established garden setting in Sydney’s Bellevue Hill. Assembled on Gaddigal land, the addition sits on the grounds of Caerleon, an important example of Queen Anne-style architecture within Australia. Originally constructed in1886, the home was built for Charles Fairfax and designed by Harry Kent and Maurice Adams between Sydney and London. A property of an interesting and storied past, it was once home to the Romanian Consulate before its current custodians took ownership. Plus Minus Design worked closely with the client, having garnered a previous working relationship, to engage with restoration works on the house proper and the relocation of gates within the grounds.
Uniquely located, Stealth Pavilion is an inserted volume into a pre-existing well-established garden setting in Sydney’s Bellevue Hill.
Stealth Pavilion and its location amongst significant listed trees came with its associated challenges, and, through a clever approach to concealment, the result combines ingenuity and precision. Phillip Arnold, Plus Minus Design founding director, explains that navigating the intricacies of heritage-listed elements and new structures resulted in the unique tension that emerges within the project. The brief for the pavilion was for a structure that would house a home gym and also have the capacity to be adapted into separate guest accommodation as required. After the consideration of a number of locations, the chosen siting was within the drop zone of four of the five listed trees. Explaining the positioning, he says, “unfortunately, the best spot for a pavilion was in a grove of trees that are part of the heritage listing. We worked carefully to avoid damaging the trees and to allow the garden to help disguise the new structure. In this case we were building a new structure rather than tweaking something existing. Our objective was to reduce the impact and even the visibility of the new work.”
Assembled on Gaddigal land, the addition sits on the grounds of Caerleon, an important example of Queen Anne-style architecture within Australia.
Built by Robert Plumb Build, with engineering by SDA Structures, key to Stealth Pavilion’s integration into the existing was the carefully curated landscape by Dangar Bar in Smith. Together with the ability for the structure and its attached wings to fit within the existing trees, an elevated slab system is introduced where the weight is transferred down through select pile locations, to avoid the complex existing root system underground. The large openings frame curated views outwards of the garden, the gates and the house. Externally, cladding of bronze mirror allows the structure to reflect the surrounding foliage and seem non-existent to the passer-by, while internally the finishes reflect a robust warmth, suitable to its function. Designed for adaptability, the core elements within the space and its wings can all be converted to accommodation in future.
Originally constructed in1886, the home was built for Charles Fairfax and designed by Harry Kent and Maurice Adams between Sydney and London.
In speaking to his approach, Phillip says, “I’ve not tried to develop a style. I just want to find appropriate responses to the circumstances. Almost all of my work has been in sites and contexts that are heavily constrained by built context, site size, heritage concerns and complex planning controls and are the result of working through those challenges.” While he continues to enjoy working solo, the size, scale and required attention to detail of Stealth Pavilion are a well-suited match. As we look to an uncertain future, the solution, he suggests, might involve looking to lessons learned. “I think history can help with understanding what we should focus on next, maybe even more so than technology,” he says. “I’d like to hope we can learn to live more modestly.” If this vision for a refocused and more modest prospect resembles the sensitive and appropriate response that is Stealth Pavilion, the future may be unknown, but it will certainly prove to be something quite interesting.