A Light Well and Telescoping Brick Volumes Create Precious Outdoor Space On A Slender Site

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By Michele Koh Morollo / Published by Michele Koh Morollo
A series of interlocking masonry volumes are set behind an existing weatherboard cottage to maximize sunlight penetration and improve air circulation.

The project, known as Annandale House, has won a number of Australian industry awards including the 2017 Australian Institute of Architects Alterations + Additions, NSW Chapter Award and the Winner Hugh + Eva Buhrich Award. 

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Sydney firm Welsh + Major, who designed the house for a family of four, built a new light well directly behind the existing cottage. 

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They fitted the light well with a large, retractable glass roof, so when it rains or gets cold, the family can shut themselves in and warm up near the crackling fireplace in the living void. 

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Behind this light well, they created three new brick volumes, each thinner than the one before it, that slide down the southern side of the site like the tubes of a telescope. 

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This opens the site up along the northern side to create outdoor spaces. The architects burrowed under the old cottage and created a new dining nook with a sandstone shelf. 

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This dining nook faces mirrored sliders that open to reveal a compact workstation. 

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Along the walls of the light well are stairs that lead up to the master bedroom and two children’s bedrooms.

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The bedrooms were constructed out of concrete and brick to differentiate the new quarters from the original cottage. 

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The 8.2-feet-wide galley kitchen with smoked oak joinery is fitted with sliders that can be fully opened to connect with a slender, open-air, brick paved courtyard. 

Photography by Michael Nicholson

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"On such a skinny site that couldn’t have much of a backyard," Welsh says, "all that access to light and air makes a huge difference to how you feel about the space". 

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