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Brick House by Clare Cousins Architects

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The existing Edwardian house sits comfortably in the street amongst single story period cottages however there is a change in density at the rear of the site. Three sets of 3 story flats surround the ‘private open space’ of the site. The brief called for an improvement in amenity and privacy for the house and garden. 

Designed for a young family the house caters for their needs now and in the future. A flexible space, referred to as the studio, is housed on top of the new garage forming a double story mass at the rear of the site to help screen large neighbouring buildings. The single story addition to the house engages with the garden with its meandering facade of glass and brick.

Project Innovation / Need: The site is long and narrow. Avoiding a ‘blinkered’ experience of the garden from within the house, the rear facade is designed as a continuous white brick surface with soft internal and external corners to maximise the glazed outlook. A large built in window seat follows the line of the dynamic window line in the living room. Its corner seat immerses the user into the courtyard beyond while still engaging with the interior. 

Interior and garden are further blurred with the insertion of a small light court at the end of the extended original hallway. The transition between ‘old’ and ‘new’ is subtle and experienced only from the inside at the junction of the two hallways. This transition is highlighted by a shift in light quality and an inversion of material usage.

 At the end of the hallway is the kitchen, centrally located in the extension and the new heart of the house. Spaces are tightly planned while maximizing storage and functionality to suit family life. The living spaces are about seeing and not seeing. The charcoal glazed brick kitchen volume screens the playroom behind. No doors are required and no mess is seen. A generous study area is located next to the dining table and kitchen but is easily screened by a perforated screen when work is done. Everything is in close proximity but there are still spaces to retreat to.

Design Challenge: The limited privacy at the rear of the site challenged the design and influenced the design solution. By aligning the new two story studio building along the neighbour’s 7m wall their wall dissolved and elevated neighbours at the rear are screened from view.

While the studio is omnipresent from within the house its timber battened facade undulates casting varying shadow patterns across the courtyard during the day. The billows of the screen allow clearance for the studio windows behind to swing open and naturally ventilate the space.

Building boundary to boundary with both buildings restricts the ability to locate windows for natural light and ventilation, however the inclusion of skylights and the light court combat this.

Sustainability: By restoring the existing Edwardian house the extent of new construction works required was minimized. The main windows of the extension were orientated to north and are protected by a large eave that pulls away from the façade of the building protecting the glass from solar heat gain. Although all glass is double glazed and low E, the west facing windows of the studio are shielded by the vertical timber battens which provide effective sun screening while still allowing for natural ventilation.

Two 5000L tanks were installed underground. One collects rain water and is used to water the vegie garden and top up the small plunge pool. The other tank stores treated grey water used to irrigate the garden and flush toilets.

The flexibility of the studio space above the garage allows for various uses depending on the occupant. While it is currently used as a guest bedroom, it could double as a home office or granny flat. Detached from the house it requires minimal energy to heat during winter and only when in use.

 Robust, readily available materials were selected for the interior and exterior. Materials that will age well over time and require minimal maintenance.

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Words: Courtesy of Catherine Parkinson
Photography: Shannon McGrath



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