Designed for a family of two parents, a grandparent, two adult children, one girlfriend, and two dogs, this new inter-generational 290 sqm home in the eastern suburbs of Sydney gave architects Tzannes an opportunity to rethink the ‘art of living well’ in the context of a typical suburban block. Located about nine kilometers from the centre of the city, Matraville is sandy and suburban, de ned by inter-war bungalows in red and liver colored brick. The usual form of renovation is to built boundary to boundary, in a way that leaves the residents with limited access to sunlight, reduces visual and acoustic privacy, and provides little cross ventilation.
Tzannes set out to redefine the suburban paradigm with a design that provides optimal amenity, careful space planning, activates the entire site and creates an owing series of interconnected indoor and outdoor spaces that open onto an expansive garden and pool at the rear of the house. The main consideration was for the three generations of this family to be able to live together, yet have privacy, so ‘that a lot of people can be together in the house without feeling that they are on top of each other. ‘
Equally importantly, in this suburban context where the surrounding houses are often densely packed, the design team wanted to make a house that is polite to neighbors, respectful of their privacy and amenity, yet one which makes a statement that good design matters.
Initially, the studio investigated working with the existing building. However, that was dismissed because the rigid, unarticulated layout of the original house meant the required levels of space, comfort, enjoyment, flexibility and solar access could not be achieved. Instead, only the existing pool and garden at the rear were retained, becoming the focus for the new design. A new living/dining room was located to take maximum advantage of the existing garden, with a new internal courtyard inserted to the north to ensure direct sunlight in mid-winter.
The client’s brief also called for the parents’ bedroom, ensuite and robe to be located on the ground floor, so that they can live on one level only. The remaining bedrooms are on the second floor, east-facing, along with a shared bathroom, study and a second living room, designed to enable multi-generational living in the house.
The architectural language is deliberately minimal, with the white bagged brick base and a dark lightweight rooftop with large dormer windows that is both functional and bold/ provocative in the otherwise rather bland streetscape. The bulk of the second floor is minimized by the roof form, its materiality and the use of the dormers. The interiors palette is robust and economical, with off-form concrete, exposed timber rafters and white walls designed to complement the surrounding garden.
Building form, articulation and orientation combine to reduce the impacts on adjoining properties while maintaining their access to sunlight, and privacy. Building architecture consisting of a white painted bagged brick base and a dark lightweight rooftop is deliberately bold and provocative, a design statement in the otherwise bland streetscape. The bulk and volume of the second floor are minimized and disguised through the choice of materiality.
Early integration of passive and active design elements was essential to reducing the built cost and minimising the running expenditure. The goal was no sun on glass in summer, yet with generous solar access to south facing living rooms and effective use of cross ventilation. Passive elements include the building orientation and form, deeply recessed windows, deep overhangs to ground floor doors, building openings that maximise cross ventilation, elimination of western glazing, ceilings on top floor which help extract hot air at high level and wind-driven ventilators. Active elements comprise the operable external blinds, power boosted roof fans, energy efficient A/C, hi-grade insulation and the selection of materials and colors.