SRG House

  • 2021

  • Architectural
    Architectual Design

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

Katrina & Conrad Johnston

Designed In:


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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Image: Anson Smart
Image: Anson Smart
Image: Anson Smart
Image: Anson Smart
Image: Anson Smart
Image: Anson Smart
Image: Brett Boardman
Image: Brett Boardman
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  • 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 courtyard, and improving its environmental performance. Other challenges were rationalising leftover spaces in the tight plan, particularly on the middle, public level and the under-utilised lower ground floor.

  • The concrete superstructure was stripped and restored, interior linings removed and the walls of fixed glass replaced with timber-framed sliding doors and windows, opening the house to its cool adjoining courtgarden. Air-conditioning units from the lower ground level were removed and the space converted into two children's bedrooms. The interior's rigid geometry is 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. For in-law accommodation, the garage is redeveloped, adding a modest apartment, linked internally to the house.

  • 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. By restoring as much original structure as possible, embodied carbon has been saved, and the unnecessary duplication of materials avoided. Its environmental kit (in other features, below) have dramatically reduced energy consumption, despite more people living here. Socially, the impact of bringing two generations together in two homes on one property is immeasurable.

  • Materials reference the 1970s era of the building, updated in contemporary, sustainable versions. On the living level, ceiling panels of carbon-positive Wood Wool, and new-generation cork flooring bring a Retro texture and warmth, plus acoustic performance to the public (middle) level. In the kitchen and bedrooms, plywood joinery is finely detailed with brass. Bathrooms are tiled in red Japanese finger mosaics, a nod to the original bathroom tiles unearthed during renovations. Environmental performance and indoor air quality are dramatically improved with new and expanded windows for cross-ventilation, with high-performance glass, R-value insulation to facades and hydronic floor heating on the lower ground concrete floor. The semi is one of a heritage-listed pair, designed by Stuart Whitelaw for the prominent Melbourne architect Sir Roy Grounds and his son, Marr Grounds. The rigid geometries and circular staircase within a square void are Roy Grounds' signature. While the new interior's curved joinery softens some of this geometry, the striking staircase and red balustrade remain. The new in-law apartment is sympathetically blended onto the site with white-painted brick walls and green garden roof. It connects internally to the main house via a lower ground-level corridor.