SRG House

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  • 2021

  • Architectural
    Interior

Designed By:

  • Fox Johnston

Commissioned By:

Katrina & Conrad Johnston

Designed In:

Australia

A 1970s heritage semi of unorthodox geometry in Sydney, is re-engineered for contemporary family life. Within the original building, extra rooms were created, the structure and links to the landscape strengthened, and original materials referenced in a modern way. A new self-contained apartment adjoining the garage adds multi-generational accommodation.


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  • CHALLENGE
  • SOLUTION
  • IMPACT
  • MORE
  • The three-level semi zig-zags across a steep waterfront site on Sydney Harbour facing west. The original concrete and glass curtain-wall building had few operable windows and air-conditioning equipment occupied half the lower ground floor. Challenges in the brief included: turning the two-bedroom air-conditioned house into a four-bedroom sustainable home catering for children and grandparents; opening the building up to its cool central court-garden, and improving its environmental performance. Other challenges were rationalising leftover spaces in the tight plan, and unifying the under-utilised lower ground floor with the rest of the house.

  • The concrete superstructure was stripped and restored, interior linings removed and the fixed-glass walls replaced with timber-framed sliding doors and windows, opening the house to its cool adjoining courtgarden. On the lower ground floor, level changes were rationalised to create a new garden sitting room, air-conditioning units removed and the space reconfigured into two bedrooms. The redeveloped garage adds an in-law apartment, linked internally to the house. The interior's rigid geometry was softened and streamlined with built-in joinery and a warm, textural palette of materials echoing the home's original era: cork, wool, timber and brass.

  • The project illustrates how well-designed buildings of the past can be reborn, and serve not only as private homes, but cultural markers. Beyond its architectural legacy, the project makes an environmental and ethical point of conservation and reuse. Restoring the original structure has saved embodied carbon and avoided material waste. Environmental performance and indoor air quality are dramatically improved with new and expanded windows for cross-ventilation, along with high-performance glass, facade insulation and hydronic heating to concrete floors. Socially, the impact of bringing two generations together in two homes on one property is immeasurable.

  • The heritage-listed semi was originally designed as the Sydney pied-a-terre for a visiting Melbourne architect (Sir Roy Grounds), not a permanent family residence. These renovations sensitively conserve the original structure while adding space, amenity and connections to the court-garden and harbour. The new in-law apartment is blended into the site and streetscape behind white-painted brick walls and a garden roof. Materials reference the 1970s era of the building, updated in contemporary, sustainable versions. They also work to define a different atmosphere on each level of the house. The upstairs master suite and second bedroom are luxuriously finished with brass-trimmed timber joinery and wool carpets. The middle level has cork flooring and wool ceiling panels bringing warmth, texture and acoustic attenuation. The lower ground floor opening to the garden is concrete. Red tiles from the original bathrooms unearthed during renovation inspired the new bathrooms, now tiled in a deep red Japanese mosaic. While the new interior's curved joinery softens some of this geometry, the striking circular staircase and red balustrade remain.