From an unplanned, ad hoc patchwork to a beautifully integrated, contemporary residence, this home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches is a triumph of thoughtful design
Surprisingly, this imposing project had its origins in a simple client request for a new swimming pool design. However, once Team 2 Design began making preliminary sketches it became clear that, without substantial changes to the somewhat shambolic existing building, this could create obstacles to the owners achieving their long-term aspirations for the home. In fact, the house actually comprised two separate, awkwardly connected=QUOTE= buildings. Zack Ashby of Team 2 Design explains: “The existing house consisted of two separate buildings set at an acute angle to one another, which had grown organically and without order over a period of 30 or more years.
“The two houses had subsequently been physically linked with a lightweight structure, resulting in an ad hoc series of spaces that did not relate to one another in a logical or usable way and which were spread over three levels and two distinct wings. The house also featured two internal staircases accessing the separate wings (whose levels did not align), in addition to which the interiors were in poor condition and dated. As a result of this, the exterior of the house lacked legibility and scale, particularly the northern elevation.”
If all that wasn’t enough, the slope of the block only further complicated matters, plus the home’s proximity to the sandstone cliff made the lower levels musty and uninhabitable due to significant damp issues. So there were certainly some steep challenges to creating a harmonious design that sits so magnificently on its precipitous site, enjoying uninterrupted views towards Barrenjoey Lighthouse. No wonder they first carried out a feasibility study, which resulted in design development over a number of years, during which time the clients’ needs changed.
The design they ultimately developed embraced the unusual geometry of the two existing buildings and the possibilities it presented. Ashby explains: “From the outset our design sought to re-establish the house as two separate structures linked internally by space and bridges rather than physical floors, thus allowing the building to be planned around a central, three-storey-high atrium space, which consolidated all of the vertical and horizontal circulation and provided an opportunity to bring light into the heart of the plan.”
That atrium is certainly a spectacular feature of the design, one that surprises everyone, even those who’ve seen it before, according to Ashby. And it’s more than a good-looking space that floods light through the place: it’s also the home’s lungs. “The atrium capitalises on stack-effect ventilation,” Ashby says. “This principle relies on hot air rising through the void and being vented through the angled skylights in the roof. This is also complemented by the negative pressure created by the northerly breeze on the southern face of the skylights, which further assists in the natural ventilation — which, in turn, draws air through the house passively.”
The house faces due north and the design capitalises on this aspect. The openings have been designed to eliminate high-level summer sun but permit the permeation of winter sun. In addition, the central atrium allows southern light to enter the centre of the house. Even though air-conditioning was installed at the clients’ request, to date they haven’t needed it for cooling, only for heating during winter. Other energy-efficient and water-saving features are solar hot water and a 30,000-litre rainwater tank below the deck.
In addition, all materials were chosen for both low maintenance and high durability. They include off-form concrete, timber, rendered masonry and stainless-steel fixings. Of particular note, recycled timber is used extensively, particularly in the pergola by the pool, which is built from recycled ironbark telegraph poles. To integrate the structure into the landscape more harmoniously, A Total Concept cleared the bamboo that was overrunning the garden and created a series of tiered and gently curving landscaped retaining walls, which break down the scale of the transition between the living spaces and the garden two storeys below.
Looking at this impressive, eminently liveable home now, it’s hard to believe it’s a renovation. The contemporary design and interesting structural forms seem more like those of a brand-new, architect-designed home than one that has been remodelled. This in itself is a measure of the success of the design.
Written by Kerry Boyne
Photography by Huw Lambert
Originally from Home Renovation magazine, Volume 10 Issue 1