Modern architectural expression brings interwar cottage into new era

From the street Stealth House appears as an unassuming modest interwar cottage. But its owners saw potential for more. As working from home was increasing and the usual tensions of accommodating a growing family became more apparent, it was time for them to transition toward a contemporary inner city home fit for modern living.

As well as a two storey addition by Bijl Architecture, a new pool and cabana provides contemporary living spaces with compelling connections to the external landscaped spaces.

Bijl Architecture Director Melonie Bayl-Smith said key to the project was its material expression with steel, concrete and timber presenting a folded design form while providing warmth, strength and stealth.

The beloved garden space was also a significant part of the design concept for Stealth House and was important to the client, a landscape designer, that it was retained in its entirety.

The brief was typical of most suburban home renovations - provide more privacy and amenity. These key elements drove the architects' approached to the project.

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Another key to the design was the backyard's natural focal point, a significant existing tree, which steered both the building design and the landscaping.

"To achieve the brief of significant yet furtive side and rear first floor additions to the existing house, we as architects collaborated with our client to establish a site-based logic for the project - while effectively seeking to 'fly under the (planning) radar'," Bayl-Smith said.

"This approach was necessary particular as the design footprint for the dwelling was limited to the existing rear setback line.

"By leveraging the topographic levels and landscaping to amplify the experiential and spatial qualities of the home, we were able to minimise any streetscape interventions and maintain privacy for our clients and their neighbours."

Through the roof line, the architects took the opportunity to express architectural value and manage physical constraints.

"Within a site-responsive roof, occupants gain a sense of the sheltering form, how spaces feel, and why. It encourages active habitation, key to the client brief for the project," Bayl-Smith said.

Co-designed by the landscape-designer client, the garden anchored the home.

Within the semi-undercover outdoor area concrete was both connector and extension of ground plane. Concrete blade walls fold up to seize the balcony. Viewed from the kitchen and living areas, a broad concrete section outlined sharpened pool edge and enclosed formed seating, held in place with blade steps, made for an inviting entrance to the pool.

The self-contained cabana was a focal point and offered privacy shielding from neighbouring properties, while the canopy of a retained willow myrtle shades expansive grassy terraces.

As the project's name implies, the extension is stealthy indeed - the roof form carves out dynamic new internal spaces with only a shard visible from the street.

Through iterative detailing and site testing, Stealth House's standing seam-clad folded roof envelops the spectator, dipping and folding to reveal all planes of site - sky, canopy, interior, shadow, landscape, neighbour, foundation. Micro views puncture the building.

The specificity of each fold enlivens the design through the tessellated ensuite; the spotted gum lining boards in the bedroom; the six-metre void over the staircase; and the directive nature of the roof pulling building to ground.

"Through exploiting qualities of form the roof sculpts dynamic, yet porous and humble spaces," Bayl-Smith said.

  • Produced with Bowerbird.
This story Stealthy addition hides from street view first appeared on The Canberra Times.