Luna Park, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are Sydney icons and all are framed from this newly built fivelevel house. Designed by Tobias Partners, the property is sited on the water’s edge where it also borrows a view of architect Harry Seidler’s office, a striking mid-1970s concrete building in Milsons Point. This other iconic landmark was an important starting point for the owners, a couple with three children. “Our client once worked in this office. It not only inspired him but it was from one of its windows that he spotted this site many years ago,” says Richard Peters, a principal with Tobias Partners, who worked with architect and founding principal Nick Tobias, project architect Tim Hungerford and interior designer Martine Merrylees, along with builder Pacific Plus Constructions.
As the couple were living in San Francisco prior to the start of this seven-year project, the initial discussions with Richard and his colleagues were via Skype. “Seidler’s office was something the clients were keen to include in this aspect, as well as bringing as much northern light into the home as possible,” says Richard, who inherited an early 20th-century brick cottage on the site, with several outbuildings that meandered down to the water’s edge, with a substantial gradient from the street of about 16 meters.
Tobias Partners certainly didn’t want to stitch together what was a fairly rudimentary set of buildings (some of which were added in the 1950s) on one of Sydney’s most prized sites. However, from the outset, it was mindful of ensuring the views and light of the neighbouring apartments weren’t compromised. “We looked closely at the existing conditions, the way the previous buildings cascaded down the steep site and set up an appropriate building envelope in response,” says Richard.
As with the former house, appearing as single-story from the street, this recently completed home belies its one-storey facade. Composed of a double garage with a car stacker, there’s simply a timber front door framed by a glazed window that pivots to become a secondary door. “Previously those walking past could see the harbour over what were a series of stairs. We felt it was important to maintain this view, both for our clients and the locals who had come to appreciate this sliver of a view,” says Richard, who also used this break with the neighbouring building to create the new spine through the house (a lift is concealed).
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