Green gables in the heart of the city

A Vic­to­rian ter­race gets a new gar­den in a most un­likely place, writes Catherine Nikas-Bou­los

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - FRONT PAGE - Pic­tures Kather­ine Lu

Think­ing out­side the square — lit­er­ally — has al­lowed a Vic­to­rian ter­race rooftop in Dar­linghurst to flour­ish among other reg­u­lar cor­ru­gated iron pitches.

Instead of stan­dard steel, the gabled roof is grow­ing na­tive plants, in­clud­ing kid­ney weed, blue­berry lily, blue­bell and bas­ket grass as part of a large at­tic con­ver­sion.

Grow­ing from the rooftops

The home­own­ers, a cou­ple with a young child, hired ar­chi­tect An­ton Kouzmin to over­see the con­ver­sion and roof restora­tion af­ter they no­ticed the roof was in a bad state.

They had only just fin­ished work on their court­yard and loved the idea of con­tin­u­ing the grow­ing theme. Coun­cil agreed.

The City of Syd­ney’s only con­di­tion was that the roof was in line with the neigh­bour­ing gable roofs that are all vis­i­ble from the street.

“From a prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive it would have been far eas­ier to do a flat roof, but we had to fol­low form,” An­ton says. “The orig­i­nal DA went a lit­tle fur­ther than what we were able to do but in the end both the clients’ and coun­cil’s ex­pec­ta­tions were met.”

The rear of the prop­erty faced north and al­though they had the ben­e­fit of a park be­hind their ter­race, there wasn’t much of a view.

“The idea was to place some­thing there that was good to look at and maybe bring back some of the na­tive species that used to be in the area,” An­ton says.

The con­struc­tion was timed so that while builders were on site in Syd­ney over win­ter, the plants were be­ing grown in Vic­to­ria.

“The plants were trans­ported here in spring, just in time for them to flour­ish in their new en­vi­ron­ment. As soon as the plants were brought in, the but­ter­flies and in­sects ar­rived, which was fan­tas­tic,” An­ton says.

Dan Har­mon and Jane Ir­win from Jane Ir­win Land­scape Ar­chi­tec­ture have set up a roof main­te­nance plan to keep it in check, while an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem was also in­stalled.

“The plants they chose all have a low pro­file,” An­ton says. “You have to be care­ful A gar­den gable re­places the rot­ting roof and the at­tic gets a clean, mod­ern makeover not to im­pact on the neigh­bours, and these plants don’t grow very high.”

A stain­less-steel perime­ter has been con­structed around the gar­den “so things would not slide off”.

The only way is up

The ground floor was un­touched but the first floor, in­clud­ing the mas­ter bed­room, did ben­e­fit from new join­ery with built-in stor­age that runs the length of half the hall­way and a new stair­case. The main bath­room and two more bed­rooms are also on this floor.

The ceil­ing height of the first floor was dropped from 3m to 2.8m to al­low more at­tic space above. An en­suite was added to the at­tic.

The orig­i­nal brick­work can still be seen in the freshly ren­o­vated space.

“We made the de­ci­sion to not cover the brick­work,” An­ton says. “It used to be a dark, sad, old at­tic, but it’s come up so beau­ti­fully.”

Fast facts

The plants were se­lected based on na­tive plant species en­demic to the area.

A flat gar­den roof would have been eas­ier to con­struct, but coun­cil wanted the ter­race to have a gable roof like the neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties.

The at­tic was trans­formed from a nogo zone into a com­fort­able liv­ing space with an en­suite.

The first-floor ceil­ing was ripped off and low­ered to 2.8m to give the at­tic more space.

Sky­lights are above the stairs to flood them with nat­u­ral light.

The orig­i­nal brick­work con­trasts with a crisp white fin­ish of the new at­tic space.

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