The history of the single-family house in Sydney during the last century is one that fuses an evolving approach to our relationship with the landscape with a history of experimentation in residential house design. These two strands have come together most memorably in the occupation of the steep and often spectacular landscapes around the inner harbour and the modes of habitation made possible in the way these houses relate to their site and Sydney’s benign climate.
This project is sited in one of these classic Sydney contexts, Castle Cove, where steep, angophora-lined ravines contain tributaries that down to the harbour. The sandstone geology is omnipresent and takes many forms, from mighty escarpments to minor ripples in the bedrock. These landscape tectonics inform the design, where a concrete shell of irregular geometry steps around outcrops and contours, creating an indeterminate form that is distinctively new but also could equally be a strange object ‘unearthed’ in excavation. Either way, the concrete element is reverberates with the site geometry while forming a built escarpment that provides a plateau for habitation. The concrete escarpment is roofed in a continuous zinc membrane that folds over to form a smaller pocket to the rear containing private rooms. Both materials will patinate over time, moving again from a “new” to “pre-existing” form.
The infrastructural nature of this primary gesture has in its counterpoint the means of occupying the house through a series of crafted timber linings that enable the occupation of this concrete landscape with a spirit and glamour reminiscent of the California’s mid-century houses by John Lautner and others. The resulting interior spaces connect inhabitants with the monumental and wonderous nature of the landscape yet still provide intimate moments for occupation that are so necessary for everyday life.Hidden down a discreet driveway on a block overlooking the bushland of Sydney’s Lower North Shore is a newly completed family home by Terroir architects — a striking concrete-and zinc-clad residence that counters the ubiquitous bungalow-style homes that seemingly blanket the northern suburbs.
The family wanted something that would sit into the land,” says Rogers, who came up with a geometric concept that mirrored the sandstone-strewn surroundings and enveloped an existing eucalypt tree. “We wanted to capture the monumentality of the site but then you’ve also got to live in it, so it has to be intimate.”
Fast-forward the mind-bending intricacies of a five-year build — which pushed trades to the limits of quality and craft — and the initial idea of inserting timber to soften the concrete interior was developed by Rogers and Gomes-McNabb into a series of intimate living spaces that all open to the spectacular view.