With a skyline dappled by Victorian era terrace houses seemingly stuck in a period long gone, Stirling House is an unexpected addition to Redfern’s Heritage Listed neighbourhood. In an area where interior renovations are commonplace, the Heritage approval to build over two neglected cottages gave Mac-Interactive Architects a unique opportunity to add a readable chapter to Sydney’s urban development.
Amidst its repetitive, rectilinear neighbourhood, Stirling House pays homage to a less rigid lifestyle driven by technological advancements and changing cultural values. The clients didn’t want a minimalist white box or a house that would dictate their lifestyle. They wanted a child-friendly home that would fit into their existing quirks and ultimately tell a story. With a diverse but eclectic collection of industrial junk, artworks and designer furniture, the clients presented Mac-Interactive with an opportunity to create a home that was as quirky and complex as its owners.
Stirling House is located beside a council pocket-park, bookending an urban block marked by rows of terracehouses. Its unique form is derived from very tangible boundaries, manipulated to the clients’ needs. Using numerical council restrictions as well as the site lines of the previous cottages, the architects developed a ‘block’ that represented three dimensional boundaries. The final form was developed by sculpting the block to respond to the surrounding 2–4- storey buildings and puncturing desired fenestration.
From the outside, Stirling House’s timber-clad exterior is a warm contrast to the rendered walls of the neighbouring terrace houses. The material selection is an aesthetic and environmentally conscious choice that notes the memory of the two weatherboard cottages that previously occupied the site. However, its decisively modern use of the material is a contemporary twist to the preceding structure. The crisp angled edges are a celebration of form that carries through from internal to external, displaying an honesty between inside and out unseen in the adjoining terraces.
Light is harnessed for subtle spatial effects through openings which cross over vertical, horizontal and angled planes. Spaces are dramatically illuminated deep into the house, while pockets of light are welcomed in every corner. The result is a well-lit home that feels comfortably private and enclosed despite its dense urban location. With snatches of the sun and sky, the interiors are calm and light-filled.
Revisiting the terrace house typology, Stirling House replaces where a traditional terrace house would have an attic with a rumpus/play space. Although connected to the rest of the house, the rumpus/play space is left open as a mezzanine level, reflecting the contemporary preference for open, interconnected spaces. The connection is dynamic, with light from a ceiling/wall opening shining on both levels.