Balmain House by Fox Johnston
Residential Architecture – Houses: National Commendation
Australian Institute of Architects
This house is a sensitive, intelligent and refined response to a tight, complex, inner-urban site, a vigilant local council and fourteen abutting neighbours. Carefully pitched to make the most of an original cottage and a unique, hilltop site with a significant tree, the house unfurls like a French horn, spiralling and expanding in scale, from the diminutive cottage corridor, through family and kitchen areas, to the living space and ultimately the largest room, the garden. Treating the whole site as “the space” of the house, the design gives definition to the original structure, while at the same time creating a sense of openness and fluidity between interior and exterior. The garden space is the “culmination,” providing a very strong sense of arrival, privacy and openness.
New forms make reference to the cottage without mimicry and are carefully articulated and revealed through seamless skylights and considered fenestration. This same strategy delivers a series of semi-internal gardens and gap spaces between old and new elements, ensuring excellent cross-ventilation and night purging, and also contributing to the blurring of external boundaries. The simple and uncluttered design, the fine detailing, a limited palette of natural materials and the use of natural light all augment the clarity of planning and spatial development to ensure a sense of spaciousness and delight. This is a delicate and nuanced intervention that flexes, folds, opens and closes as it negotiates around trees, neighbours, views and levels, in a sensitive and highly site-specific way. The result is accomplished and extremely elegant.
Read architect Conrad Johnston’s discussion of the project for ArchitectureAU.