2014 National Architecture Awards: Small Project

Balmain Apartment by Durbach Block Jaggers Small Project Architecture: National Award Australian Institute of Architects

Jury citation

This project is located in a tiered 1970s apartment building in Balmain, overlooking Sydney Harbour. The original sixty-three-square-metre apartment was adequate but limited, divided into three cramped living, dining and bedroom spaces that failed to celebrate the terrace and wonderful view, and no longer met the changed needs of the owners. A low ceiling only made matters worse.

What has resulted is a beautiful architectural intervention, rather than an interior design, full of intriguing design layers and consideration. It is immediately clear that the architect and the owners have hit it off. The story of the design stemmed from the architect’s studies of Corbusian interiors and then evolved into a carefully developed series of spaces, walls, openings, surfaces and objects which come together much as a well-curated exhibition does, though this time telling the story of the owners, their possessions and of course the view.

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Several main moves have taken place: a wall has been removed from the centre of the living spaces and a light and elegant structure replaces it; a datum line has been introduced to bring the eye to a level at which joinery meets the walls; and in the new open living space, windows can slide away to reveal a completely open terrace, which then becomes more of an extension of the internal space than a conventional balcony. The ceiling also is “separated,” and seems to float.

A sequence of small but delicate manoeuvres follows. Small spaces are delineated by remarkable splashes of strong colour. In one curved alcove, a beautifully lit yellow sculpture hangs before a deep pink wall, the shadow of the sculpture creating a gallery-like focus to the apartment. In the all-white bathroom, a wide green-tiled shower is top-lit and continues the exploration in colour.

The jury was highly impressed by the thoroughness and rigour of this intellectual design, and the handcrafted nature of the transformed apartment.


Durbach Block Jaggers Architects
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Project Team
Deborah Hodge (project architect), Erin Field (design architect), Camilla Block (design director)
Builder Chris Field, CWF Constructions
Certifier John J. Briggs Associates
Planner Mersonn Pty Ltd
Structural consultant Andrew Simpson, SDA Structures
Site details
Location Balmain,  Sydney,  NSW,  Australia
Category Interiors
Type Alts and adds, Apartments, Small projects
Project Details
Status Built
Completion date 2014



Published online: 6 Nov 2014
Words: National Architecture Awards Jury 2014
Images: Anthony Browell


Architecture Australia, November 2014

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