Alexandria Residence

By Edward Davis

137 Buckland St Alexandria


Internal Courtyard

How does the project respond to its context, contribute to the public domain for example street or neighbourhood?

Located on a tight inner-city suburb of Sydney, in a Conservation Area, the project brief immediately called upon the need to expand and transform a single storey run down cottage whilst maintaining the character of the existing streetscape and urban frame work.

The design strategy was to leave the street facade completely untouched, apart from cosmetic improvements. The rear of the house in contrast was completely replaced but in a way that made deliberate and considered references to the urban context and more specifically the semi-industrial heritage of the Alexandria precinct.

We were looking to reference the warehouse feel of the area but in a more "comfortable" way. The scale was suggestive of a small warehouse but the softer timber elements have been emphasised in the design to create a more "human" living environment.  

What problems did you have to solve?

The size limitations of the site was something that was identified as a challenge early on, given the need to accommodate a young family of 5. The original single storey cottage comprised two bedrooms and a small living, dining kitchen area with little natural light. The New Residence contains 3 bedrooms and a Home Office as well as substaintially expanded living and outdoor areas.

The integration of natural light and ventilation was also seen as a design challenge to be solved at the concept stage. The Central "green" central courtyard became the solution to the problem and helped to drive the design on a number of levels.

What was the contribution of others, including engineers, landscape architects, artists, builders and other specialists to the outcome?

The Structural Engineer was key in the design process as we needed to maximise not only the horizontal dimension but also the vertical space. Floor zones were minimised and the ground floor slab utilises a waffle-pod system which allows the rainwater tanks to be accommodated within the slab which saved space.

Design-wise the Client was also a major contributor in this project as they are keen art-collectors and very interested in furniture design and had a great understanding of the visual experience of the interior spaces. Spaces were designed from the outset to allow for certain artworks to be displayed and for book collections to be featured. The house was made to work around these things to a certain extent.

How would you describe the value of design in relation to the cost of the project?

Many of the materials used in the project have been re-cycled from other projects. One of the Clients is a builder so some materials were already in storage before the design was created and we then accomodated these materials and integrated them seamlessly into the design process. The Client was comfortable with the fact that the materials were not "perfect" in finish, but that this would add to the richness and the visual appeal.

The overall construction employs standard construction methods and materials. In this way cost was kept to a minimum. Time and labour (and space) were reduced in the construction of the party walls by using preformed concrete techniques. 

What are some important sustainability aspects of the project?

The Passive Solar design of the project was critical to the sucess of the design. The central courtyard allows warm air to be drawn up and out through the middle of the building, thus venting all the internal spaces simultaneously.

The new ground floor slab is heated, which because of the small size of the house and it's vertical nature, warms the entire house efficiently in winter.

The rainwater tanks under the same slab, help to keep the house cool in summer, with the water collected being used to flush toilets and in the washing machine.

External operable shading devices protect external windows from excessive sun in summer and allow the house to draw that sun inside in winter.

What do you consider to be the benefits of the project for the client, users and the community?

The house provides a good example of how a young family of 4 or 5 can live comfortably in an eco-friendly way on a small site close to the city. 

The design has completely re-generated, and re-invigorated a site that was previously only able to accomdate 2-3 people.