A cultivated life: Garden House

Tzannes Associates create two beautifully detailed brick pavilions that respond directly to its environment and are attuned to the way the family intends to inhabit their new home.

Contemporary architecture, particularly the single domestic variety, is often used by the architect as a vehicle to explore any number of artistic interests. The line that exists between art and architecture can be a wiggly, cranked and blurry one – that’s if you assume there is a line there at all. Architecture can be fashion(able), and it can sometimes even be art, but the strength of architecture – its fundamental purpose being to provide occupants with any number of requirements – can be found in itself. An architect putting a building together the best way that they can, to create something special for a client, can result in a place, an act, of real delight.

Tzannes Associates was approached by the owners of a property in Sydney’s eastern suburbs to design a new family home on a leafy site surrounded by a phalanx of long-established homes. The architects began the process of building up a design response that was generated by considerations about how this house would respond to the site, the family that would inhabit it and the way they might use their new home. With a flood easement running through the site, the footprint of the building required careful consideration to ensure any potential flooding was ameliorated. The cranked configuration of the block suggested a building form that folded around the elbow of the site. From this, the concept of twin pavilions evolved, the pair folding around a parcel of land to form the new garden. The first pavilion, the more public of the two, contains the formal living and dining space and is set off a 4.3-metre-high loggia that runs along its length. This covered way leads towards the main entrance to the internal spaces of the house, at the fulcrum point of the composition. There is an elegant informality about this sequence. You’re not really coming up to a front door; after all, you’re already “in” once you come through the front gate and in under the loggia. The “front door” is more like the side door that you might duck into on your way back from the beach, or in this case the twenty-metre lap pool.

The first pavilion, the more public of the two, contains the formal living and dining space.

The first pavilion, the more public of the two, contains the formal living and dining space.

Image: Michael Nicholson

Materially, the pavilions are brick composites. The house is by no means a traditionally constructed brick building; steel and concrete are used together to adjust the composition to fit standard brick dimensions. The proportion, colour and texture of the materials chosen elicit a feeling of both warmth and strength. This is very much a sophisticated city house however, it also has a relaxed feel to it – a result of the deliberate informality that has been created here. The choice of the elegantly proportioned bricks fits in with the practice’s long history of investigating the idea of using masonry as a curtain of sorts: sometimes thick, sometimes thin, the material – however it is used – has an innate feeling of strength, security and longevity. Like most Tzannes Associates buildings, this house is designed to last forever, to age gracefully and reinforce the practice’s approach to sustainability by providing an architecture that is built once and built well.

Robust, cost-effective brick pavers have been used on external floor surfaces. While these pavers are a material seen more often in the public realm, they are a perfect colour complement to the brick walls of the pavilions proper, and serve to reinforce an idea of considered robustness in the composition of the house.

The main bedroom features a series of large square windows that slide away to create the impression of being in a treehouse.

The main bedroom features a series of large square windows that slide away to create the impression of being in a treehouse.

Internally, the dark masonry exterior falls away to reveal blackbutt timber, white plaster walls and travertine floors served with discerning detail. Bespoke furniture elements designed by the architects work well with other furniture selections by Darren Palmer Design Studio. Bedrooms are on the upper level of the rear pavilion, the main bedroom featuring a series of large square windows that slide away to create the impression that you are in a treehouse. Windows are placed to encourage natural cross-ventilation in each pavilion, and a series of skylights delivers natural light to the kitchen, the stairwell and some of the bathrooms beyond. I realize that I’m listing a series of quantifiable features now, which doesn’t particularly make for good reading, but it does go a way towards understanding how good, responsive architecture is created. To paraphrase Adam Caruso’s short essay “The Feeling of Things,” the skill set of a good architect, in putting together these material assemblies, creates atmospheres. These atmospheres elicit a response, and a relationship is formed between the building and the occupant.

Architecture’s relationship with our environment and with us, and the architect’s intent to make it as good as it can be, matters – and that’s what this house is about.

Products and materials

Lysaght Longline 305 and Custom Orb in Colorbond ‘Loft’
External walls
Austral Bricks Bowral50 dry-pressed brick in ‘Gertrudis Brown’; Lysaght Longline 305 in Colorbond ‘Loft’; Woodform Architectural Expression Cladding in blackbutt with Sorrento profile
Internal walls
Rendered brick and blockwork in Dulux Professional Enviro2 low-sheen ‘Natural White’
Windows and doors
Aneeta Windows frameless sash windows with bronze anodized frames by Evolution Windows; Panoramah double-glazed sliding door with bronze anodized frames by L’Officina By Vincenzo; custom-made blackbutt windows and doors by Woodsense Joinery
Vein-cut travertine marble from STS Stone; blackbutt timber floorboards; Cavalier Bremworth Lisburn carpet in ‘Venise’
XAL pendants from Space Lighting; Bocci pendant from Hub Furniture; LED lights (integrated into joinery/skylight) from TEC Lighting; Bega external fittings from Zumtobel Lighting; garden lighting by Hunza Lighting
Miele appliances; Liebherr integrated fridge; Oliveri sinks; Franke tapware; Hafele and Hettich joinery fittings; Vintec wine fridges; Smeg half dishwasher
Astra Walker tapware; Rogerseller fittings; Duravit fittings; Kaldewei bath
Heating and cooling
Daikin airconditioner installed by R&J Air Conditioning; EcoSmart ethanol fireplace in custom-designed joinery unit by Tzannes Associates
External elements
Austral Bricks paving in ‘London Chestnut’
Custom joinery by Tzannes Associates and made by Hammercraft Joinery; custom garage door by Graham Day Doors


Chippendale, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Project Team
Peter John Cantrill, Neil Haybittel, Lily Tandeani, Adam Brewer, Bruce Chadlowe, Carl Holder
Arborist Tree Transplanters Australia
Builder Paul King
Engineer M Zimmerman and Associates
Flood consultant Cardno
Hydraulic engineer Glenn Haig and Partners
Interiors Darren Palmer Design Studio
Landscape design Dangar Group
Mechanical engineer Obrart and Co
Quantity surveyor Donald Bayley and Associates
Steelwork South Coast Welding and Fabrication
Swimming pool engineer Geoff Ninnes Fong and Partners
Town planning Moody and Doyle Town Planning
Site details
Site type Suburban
Site area 832 m2
Building area 430 m2
Category Residential buildings
Type Houses, Residential
Project Details
Status Built
Design, documentation 42 months
Construction 16 months



Published online: 9 Jun 2015
Words: David Welsh
Images: Michael Nicholson


Houses, April 2015

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