Iron Maiden House is located in the Sydney suburb of Longueville, a small residential area on the peninsula between Tambourine Bay and Woodford Bay. The site is afforded views of the Lane Cove River and the Sydney CBD. Iron Maiden House was designed for a family of five, returning to Sydney from many years living in Hong Kong. Accustomed to the oceanic subtropical monsoon climate and compact living arrangements typical of Hong Kong, the clients were looking for a home that used passive design principles to heat and cool the building. They weren’t afraid to challenge traditional notions of what a home should be, requesting a generous connection to the outdoors to enjoy and entertain family and friends.
The elongated, corner site presented an opportunity to explore an atypical typology and form for Iron Maiden House. Given the home would be exposed to the street on two sides, it was crucial that any design response preserved privacy while maximising links to the outdoors. A natural gorge, in which water cuts through rock to form secluded spaces with overscale walls was mixed with a modern reinterpretation of a typical gable house found in Longueville to generate the final form. The simple shape was extruded lengthways along the site and sliced down the middle with a pond to form a central axis. Slender, cathedral-like spaces were formed around this central thoroughfare with ponds running parallel to walkways to connect the spaces. This provides a sheltered private outdoor space for the family to relax and enjoy.
Spaces within the two storey volumes are arranged telescopically, scaling down to the rear of the property. A compressed entry, with views through the centre of the site onto both gardens and water, opens onto the double height kitchen space with living and dining spaces nearby. On the ground floor, essential functions are stepped down the side boundary facing inwards onto the swimming pool and nearby gardens. Rooms open via oversized sliding doors with retractable flyscreens, expanding the usable floor space of each room out into the walkway.
While the ground floor plan could be considered inward looking, the upper floor by contrast is outward looking. Viewed externally, Iron Maiden House has several large windows oriented for views of the city skyline and unencumbered views of the sky. Activity at the ground level and over-looking into the intimate spaces of the home are protected by horizontal timber and corrugated iron cladding. The street tree canopy is borrowed by the downstairs lounge and upstairs living space to provide dappled light and a leafy outlook.
An external walkway overlooking the swimming pool was provided to link the upstairs bedrooms, giving the clients’ children a sense of independence as they grow into young adults. The walkway also provides an opportunity for the children to open their large, sliding bedroom doors to the outside, creating an outdoor deck and view to greenery from every room. Each bedroom can entertain a small group of friends, spilling out onto the walkway for extra space and passive supervision from an adult downstairs. The bedrooms are adjacent to an unenclosed second living space, which uses half height walls to define its boundaries, and maintain views to the city and sky.