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.
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.
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.