Located in the harborside suburb of Neutral Bay, Australia, this semi detached residence originally consisted of an amalgamation of unrelated spaces that were disconnected from both the site and the outdoors. As the first project of young firm Downie North, the architects carefully curated views in order to connect the house with its outdoor spaces.
One strategy they used is recreating the rear living space as an expansive veranda, creating a threshold between indoor and outdoors. Through a series of intentional and creative design strategies, Downie North succeeds in giving this traditional semi detached residence a rebirth.
In this extension of the 1920s era Neutral Bay House, a living, kitchen and dining flows to the north facing courtyard. Carefully curating the openings, Downie North aimed to inundate the interior with plenty of natural lighting, and invite in the gentle sea breeze.
As an extension to an early 20th century worker’s cottage, the original house was not contextual to its site. The programmatic spaces within the house were compartmentalized, prohibiting flexible and fluid living.
Reworked to accommodate the needs of contemporary living, the design focused on efficient living and connecting the house to its environment. As such, the project became “a balancing act between architectural experimentation, financial constraints, what would be supported by the urban context, community and the requirements of a young family.”
There were two main inspirations for the design – cats and Japan. The architects had an interesting and unique designed process, explaining how they “imagined [their] cat padding around the house. Where would he like to sit? Where might he curl up to sleep? Cats instinctively know sunlight and thermal comfort.”
In this regard, the house has ample spaces for resting and lounging under the sun. The clients, on the other hand, had a special affinity to Japanese architecture. They were drawn to traditional Japanese garden houses. The architects took their cue and designed a house that opened up like a veranda and took advantage of its adjacent outdoors.
It was of critical importance for both designers and clients to connect the house to its surroundings. As such, Neutral Bay House pays homage to the history of modernism in Sydney’s suburbs. According to the architect Daniel North, ““We deliberately left traces of the past in terms of form and materiality.
It’s something we try and do wherever possible. It’s not just for decorative effect, or juxtaposing old with new — it’s about retaining the building’s own signature.” And so they did. Neutral Bay House brings a beautiful and balanced intersection of the charms of the old and the sensibilities of the modern.