Robin Boyd Award for Housing

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Robin Boyd Award for Housing – Snelling House by Alexander Tzannes

Restored elements with new terrace and fascia/gutter/lighting system. Image: Bart Maiorana

Living room. Image: Bart Maiorana

Sydney architect/furniture designer Douglas Snelling built this house on a hillside at Northbridge, Sydney, between 1948 and 1951, but sold it before his family moved in. Built principally of local sandstone, timber, steel and glass, it was intended to respond to the natural conditions—bush and slope—of the site. Over the next four decades, the house deteriorated through neglect, unsympathetic alterations and initial compromises in its design and construction (including an inadequate box gutter draining the butterfly roof). In 1994, the current owners commissioned Alexander Tzannes to resuscitate the building to contemporary living standards. In his offices’ works, the original structure has been stabilised and made waterproof, with much of the original fabric conserved or restored. Changes include a self-contained living area behind an original stone retaining wall, and enlargements to a terrace above. The kitchen, study, bathrooms and laundry were renewed.

Jury Verdict

Snelling House was designed and built by the architect Douglas Snelling for his family around 1950. When the current owners purchased the property in 1994, unsympathetic alterations and poor maintenance had left the house in a sorry state. This project has involved conservation, alterations and additions by the current owner’s architect.

A keen understanding of what can be viewed as a good example of an unrecognised/unfashionable style of architecture has enabled the architect, together with a sympathetic client, not only to stabilize,
restore and conserve elements of the existing dwelling but to enhance
the flow of space within. A clever blend of contemporary and original work has been successfully achieved.

The quality of detail and finish has brought great satisfaction to the owners and an assured future to the original Snelling design.


Original retaining wall - modifications allowed additions to be built behind. Image: Bart Maiorana

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