Anthony Gill Architects In Profile
Weaving together space, light and landscape, this studio creates homes that are filled with calmness and coherence.
Calm, considered and quietly luxurious, the residential designs of this Sydney studio are underpinned by a finely honed approach to spatial organization.
Anthony Gill established his Surry Hills-based practice in 2007. The catalyst came while he was working with
Tim Allison Associates, in the form of a tempting commission from a clothing industry entrepreneur who’d bought adjoining terrace houses in Paddington.
“That was a great opportunity, starting a practice with a project of this size, scope and ambition,” says Anthony. “The brief was to amalgamate two six-metrewide Victorian terraces – one three storeys, one two storeys – into a single family home. Working with Tim taught me a lot – he’s a rigorous, very efficient planner who understands how to balance materials and richness in complex projects.”
The architectural response in Paddington House (2010, see Houses 79) hinges around a strong spatial idea: carving a two-storey void through the centre of the two houses, stitching them together with light. The incision unlocks the levels in plan, strongly connecting the private areas, the public spaces below and the lush green garden.
“The void sits above the dining room. The client was initially wary of losing a whole room to the void, but I firmly believed it needed that full proportion for the dining table to feel right in the space. And the new connection between the levels is essential to the way the house now works. That’s what makes it special.”
With the void connecting the inner levels, the space over the top of the two-storey house was given an outdoor roof terrace. Materials inside were kept to a minimum, the crispness of white walls balanced by the warmth of natural oak joinery and floors.
While working on Paddington House, Anthony was devising a similarly considered strategy, though on a far smaller scale, for his own apartment in a
Harry Seidler-designed block (Gemini) in Potts Point. Built in 1969, the 38-square-metre one-bedroom apartment had great bones, good light and intact original features, but the compact space needed re-imagining to suit a growing young family. The addition of a singular spine of joinery running centrally through the apartment transformed its plan into a flexible space that could be changed and rearranged, depending on the use, need or time of day.
The original bedroom was cut in half by the new joinery element to become a child’s bedroom. An adults’ pull-out bed is concealed behind closet doors in the big wall of joinery, the rest of which is open shelving for books and objects. The wall also serves to partially screen the kitchen from the dining table.
Bellevue Hill House (2017) is another project with curious constraints. The clients’ 1940s bungalow had at some point been divided into separate sublet apartments.
While some original character remained at the rear, the front had suffered a bad brick addition.
In a reversal of the typical approach taken toward houses of this era, the clients’ brief was to put a new front to the building and keep most of the rear. This motivated the architect to devise a coherent new whole, rather than a clearly delineated addition. The old front accretion and roof were removed, and much of the original structure peeled back, leaving the subfloor and original bungalow walls as the architect’s canvas.
A rigorous new plan was imposed, clarifying the various roles of each space and improving the relationships between house, garden and street. The new front stitches into the original structure as a series of interlocking volumes of varying height to create a hierarchy of space, reflecting the use of each room: public spaces have higher ceilings, while those in the private spaces are compressed.
“Leaving the original footprint determined planning in the rear section, but removing the roof in this area allowed us to tie it in architecturally to the new front, with the different ceiling levels and volumes,” says Anthony.
Externally, there is subtle evidence of the previous building. The rough render of the original masonry has been replicated over new walls, resting on the old sandstone foundations – a visible imprint of the past.
This considered, delicate stitching further evolves in Waterloo House (2017; see Houses 118), a heritage-listed Victorian terrace in Sydney’s Inner West.
The layering of gardens through the site has brought sunlight and ventilation deep into the plan. But the plan isn’t purely rational.
The house had quirks, including an unusually high ceiling of four metres and a garden with an outdoor loo.
All the clients wanted was a beautiful kitchen, a beautiful bathroom and a beautiful garden. They were nervous about engaging an architect, fearing the original features and charm would be overwritten.
“They weren’t interested in extra rooms they didn’t need, so the brief became more qualitative – about the richness of each space. And any additional floor space was weighed up against its impact on the garden. The trick was keeping the planning tight but making the spaces feel generous,” explains Anthony.
The front rooms were repainted. The existing lean-to at the rear (containing kitchen, bathroom and laundry) was chopped off and replaced by a compact, twostorey addition. Downstairs is the new dining room and
kitchen. Richly layered with bagged brickwork, solid timber, ceramic tiles and terrazzo, it is a cook’s kitchen, not a chef’s. Upstairs is a tranquil new bathroom, given privacy from neighbours by a brick screen and an internal garden.
The addition is built in sandstock bricks, recycled from a house of a similar vintage. All new joinery and floors are recycled blackbutt. Out in the courtyard, a favourite old bathtub of the owners’ is paired with an outdoor shower and tucked against the original outside loo. It’s all but subsumed by a tiny urban jungle.
There’s an art to resolving space, light and landscape in these ways, and making it all look effortless. The weaving of disparate constraints and opportunities into a quiet clarity explains the many awards that this practice has won, including for the restaurant interiors of Poly in Surry Hills and Ester in Chippendale.
“We’re really about seeking coherence and calmness. I like the idea of someone visiting one of our projects and not knowing what is new or old, thinking that it could have always been like this. I like to think we have a light touch, even though we carefully consider every aspect of a project.” gillarchitects.com.au
There’s an art to resolving space, light and landscape in these ways, and making it all look effortless. The weaving of disparate constraints and opportunities into a quiet clarity explains the many awards this practice has won.