Di­vide and con­quer

Why split­ting this house in two makes for a happy fam­ily

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - FRONT PAGE -

Ar­chi­tect Clin­ton Cole never meant for this new house to stand out from the crowd. Po­si­tioned on an ex­posed corner block in Longueville, it has the same set­back as its neigh­bours and even ref­er­ences the house next door de­signed by ac­claimed ar­chi­tect Glenn Mur­cutt. It just hap­pens to be split in two. “The prin­ci­ple of the de­sign is turn­ing in on it­self and cre­at­ing its own out­look,” Clin­ton says. “Where you would typ­i­cally open out and con­nect to the gar­den we were turn­ing our backs on it.”

Wel­come back

The clients were a fam­ily of five with three chil­dren be­tween the ages of seven and nine years. The cou­ple were re­turn­ing to Syd­ney af­ter 19 years in Hong Kong where they had lived in an apart­ment.

A fam­ily home con­nected to the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment was a high pri­or­ity.

Af­ter ex­plain­ing their brief to Clin­ton, he says the clients left his team to it.

“The idea was to have spa­ces for the fam­ily to come to­gether but de­signed in such a way that the kids would have their own space,” he says. “I met them in Hong Kong for the first sketch and then we met up two more times be­fore we handed it over — ev­ery­thing was done by email.”

Two halves make a whole

The house is split into two pavil­ions, with in­door and out­door liv­ing spa­ces on one side and the mas­ter bed­room suite above it.

The chil­dren’s bed­rooms and a kids’ liv­ing space are on the up­per floor of the sec­ond pav­il­ion while the din­ing room, study/guest room and the firepit area are on the ground floor below. A cov­ered out­door cor­ri­dor con­nects the kids’ bed­rooms up­stairs with an­other open walk­way and fish­pond con­nect­ing spa­ces on the ground floor.

The house is clad in cor­ru­gated steel, a favourite ma­te­rial of Glenn Mur­cutt.

“The con­cept is be­ing in touch with the out­side,” Clin­ton says. “Other than tor­ren­tial rain, it’s fine. It keeps you con­nected to the el­e­ments.

“To us, this is a nor­mal house for the fam­ily whether it looks amaz­ing or not but I knew it would get a lot of at­ten­tion.”

Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, con­vinc­ing coun­cil took some time as Clin­ton ad­vo­cated for the de­sign. It was even­tu­ally ap­proved af­ter five months of ne­go­ti­a­tion.

Clin­ton worked with Mark Bell from Bell Land­scapes from the start to en­sure the house and gar­den were treated as one. Like Clin­ton, who is also a qual­i­fied builder, Mark was re­spon­si­ble for the con­struc­tion of the gar­den as well as its de­sign.

“We wanted to sink our teeth into this project to­gether,” Clin­ton says. “I told him we needed a play area for the kids, how I wanted the plants to move and how it should look at dif­fer­ent times of the year.”

The house and gar­den have been de­signed to change and grow with the years.

“This is the same ma­te­rial (cor­ru­gated steel) that they were work­ing with 100 years ago,” Clin­ton says. “Af­ter 50 years, this house will dis­colour to get that red patina and it will keep on re­veal­ing things af­ter I am gone.”

While Clin­ton in­sists that there’s noth­ing to see here, the house has been at­tract­ing at­ten­tion for all the right rea­sons.

He’ll be pre­sent­ing it at the World Ar­chi­tec­ture Fes­ti­val Awards in Am­s­ter­dam later this year where it has been short-listed. So much for blend­ing in.

Even the small ar­eas work hard in this house. Clin­ton cre­ated this ca­sual read­ing area in the smaller pav­il­ion, with a spi­ral stair­case lead­ing up to the chil­dren’s bed­rooms and lounge area.

Pic­tures Mur­ray Fredericks and Michael Lass­man

The main pav­il­ion ex­tends ef­fort­lessly into the out­door spa­ces which in­cludes the pool.

The kitchen feels much larger than it is thanks to a gen­er­ous void and care­ful man­age­ment of nat­u­ral light.

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