Paddington House

Alteration + addition Brisbane, Qld

- by Twohill & James

On the treacherou­sly steep streets of Paddington, Brisbane, the city’s vernacular architectu­re and distinctiv­e topography converge. The rise and fall of pyramid roofs measure the steepness of the terrain and the scale and rhythm of the street plays out to the beat of timber pavilions strung across the landscape. With elevation comes opportunit­y for prospect, sunlight and breeze, and with depth comes refuge, found in the cool, cellar-like spaces of the cottage undercroft.

For architects David Twohill and Emma James of local practice Twohill and James, it was the steep terrain, among many distinguis­hing conditions, that set the direction for Paddington House. The speculativ­e project designed for and constructe­d by owner and builder Bobby Clouston restores an early-twentiethc­entury cottage, raises and reposition­s it on a 10-metrewide site and connects it to a contempora­ry pavilion accommodat­ing private, social and service spaces over four stepped levels. From the rear of the property, a view of the city is now captured from the upper floor, foreground­ed by tree canopies unfurling like carpet across the ubiquitous roofscapes of the neighbourh­ood.

As the project was designed to optimize return on investment, the brief was largely guided by the demands of the real-estate market. This was unusual for Twohill and James, who rarely work in isolation from the occupier. Bobby’s predilecti­on for working with concrete combined with his appreciati­on for the value of a design-led product set the objective of challengin­g the material and spatial potential of architectu­re within the confines of budget and planning controls.

The ambition to use concrete as both structure and finish is announced by a planted concrete roof that shelters the front door, located at the intersecti­on of lightweigh­t cottage and heavyweigh­t pavilion. Interactio­n with the historic cottage is deliberate­ly delayed, with focus instead drawn to the contempora­ry rooms that hinge up and down from the entry level and extend towards the rear of the site. In the sunlit, concrete-walled volume of the entry vestibule, the spatial intelligen­ce of the architect and the craftsmans­hip of the builder come together, setting the tone for the intersecti­on of these discipline­s to forge a complement­ary relationsh­ip that continues through the whole.

The primary staircase cleverly distribute­s vertical movement while managing the complexiti­es of steep terrain and dispersed occupation. A fine steel balustrade guides ascent to the primary social level, held below a raking ceiling that continues outside over the rear terrace. The kitchen occupies more than half of this suspended concrete floor, with a central bench establishi­ng the heart. Above the kitchen cupboards,

splayed walls conceal light scoops that deliver diffuse light to the interior. Subtle variations in luminosity reflect the time of day and season of year.

Like the kitchen, the dining room looks east towards the city over the terrace. Windows looking west over a courtyard below activate opposing walls, drawing air inside to ventilate the whole floor. A half flight of stairs connects the dining room to a modest living room overlookin­g the entry. A tall window returns the view to the planted rooftop hovering above the front door. The primary floor of the worker’scottage extends directly from this living room. The robe, bathroom and sleeping chambers are contained by the original weatherboa­rd skin – a contempora­ry spatial footprint cleverly laid over a modest historic floor plan.

More bedrooms are housed in the contempora­ry spaces of the ground floor. In the descent towards natural ground, atmospheri­c conditions shift and the coolth held by the thermal mass of the concrete walls and floors brings cellar-like conditions. What appeared from above as a disruption in the continuity of the floor plan reveals itself as a delightful garden courtyard, designed by landscape architect Dan Young. With considerat­ion for the layering of species and the emphasis on a central, solitary flame tree, the courtyard brings a cooling microclima­te and a sense of sanctuary to nearby rooms.

In the cool, quiet spaces of the grounded living room, the many clever moves of architect and builder reveal their collective charm. The commitment to a rich and tactile material palette – the muted greys of concrete, the rough, biscuity masonry and the warm hues of timber windows and doors – brings visual calm and thermal comfort. The careful and considered ways in which a landscape experience is embedded in the interior amplifies the sense of refuge from urbanity. And, through the presence of tall vertical volumes bookended by openings and views to the outside world, the modest interior volume exudes a spatial generosity that belies its modest footprint.

Paddington House demonstrat­es Twohill and James’s deep understand­ing of the Brisbane condition: its steep terrain, intense sunlight, hot and humid climate and subtropica­l landscape. The challengin­g slope is traversed with ease thanks to a winding concrete staircase and fluid handrail. Sun scoops, light wells and carefully placed openings enable sunlight and breeze to coalesce. By prioritizi­ng open space and by making architectu­re a framework for landscape, this building finds roots in the place from which it has sprung.


Roofing: Lysaght Custom Orb roof sheeting in Colorbond ‘Dune’ External walls: Austral Masonry Bowral Bricks in ‘Simmental

Silver’; James Hardie fibre cement sheeting

Internal walls: CSR plasterboa­rd; concrete

Windows and doors: Custom windows and doors by North Coast Joinery; Viridian Low E glazing Flooring: Polished concrete; site-poured terrazzo floors Lighting: Flos Mini Glo-Ball from Euroluce; Brightgree­n downlights; Beacon lighting LEDlux downlights Kitchen: Site-poured terrazzo benchtops; stained American oak cabinetry by City Joinery; Miele Pureline oven and microwave; Miele cooktop, rangehood and semi-integrated dishwasher; Fisher and Paykel French door fridge; Franke undermount bowl sink and Sussex Taps Scala sink mixer from Reece

Bathroom: National Tiles

Aria Snow Gloss wall tiles; site-poured terrazzo floors

Heating and cooling: Ducted airconditi­oning

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 ??  ?? 1 Gatehouse 2 Entry 3 Garage 4 Laundry 5 Bedroom 6 Courtyard 7 Garden room 8 Deck 9 Pool 10 Verandah 11 Robe 12 Living 13 Kitchen 14 Dining
1 Gatehouse 2 Entry 3 Garage 4 Laundry 5 Bedroom 6 Courtyard 7 Garden room 8 Deck 9 Pool 10 Verandah 11 Robe 12 Living 13 Kitchen 14 Dining

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