An Airy Sydney Home Goes Vertical to Gain Space

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By Ian Spula / Published by Dwell
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A snug footprint and protected streetscape in Sydney prompt an architect to build skyward.

Architecture firm MCK transformed a former glass factory and terrace house into a single-family residence by tapping into the potential of vertical space. 

“The biggest design challenge was the facade,” says architect Mark Cashman. “It had to step back from the street and recede to give prominence to the heritage status warehouse facade.” Above the translucent bedroom level, a balcony with a herb garden steps back further. From the rooftop garden, downtown Sydney comes into full view.

The new home matches the cornice heights, if not the facades, of its adjoining neighbors. The vertical expression happens at a setback. Double-height internal spaces are paired with an enclosed courtyard of similar dimensions. Ultimately, the 2,900-square-foot site fits a 8,600-square-foot dwelling, including the courtyard and basement garage.

The kitchen is accessible from a raised courtyard across from the main living space. “The double exhaust hood looks like an old industrial gantry,” remarks Cashman. Sandblasted brick and sandstone from the original warehouse dialogue with floating white and grey cabinetry.

"The decision to go monochromatic was made early in the design process," says principal Mark Cashman. "It’s a philosophy for most of our work that the architecture should be about form and space—a backdrop allowing the user and their life to be the color. In this case [we made] the warehouse fabric legible, sometimes contrasting and other times complementing."

Steel strips form a security screen on the street side of the scullery. One can also hang pots and pans from them. A skylight filters illumination through glass block flooring to the basement below.

A pivoting Gyrofocus fireplace, staircase, and elevator shaft organize the social space. Lighting throughout the house is mostly ambient, supplemented by task-oriented lighting.

From the transitional space between the living area and courtyard, the TV room is visible.

A secondary bedroom meant for a child has a partially translucent, curved glass wall.

The courtyard is a secure space with a double-height window that offers seamless interior-exterior connection. “It gives a nice sense of containment and peace, while still engaging interior spaces,” says Cashman.