From the architect:
Situated in the heart of Surry Hills, Little Albion Guest House fronts two streets – Albion Street and Little Albion Street – the former being approximately 5m higher than the latter. It occupies a tiny North-South-oriented urban inﬁll site in a densely built urban environment, and hence it is deprived of natural sunlight. It is sandwiched between two heritage buildings – a former Presbyterian church to the West, which is now a hip commercial ofﬁce building, and a former school hall to the East, which is now a mixed-use apartment building. All three buildings form part of a Heritage Conservation Area.
The design starts with the existing heritage building. We have continued the traditional use of the building from a convent to a boarding house and now, it has been thoughtfully reimagined into a luxurious guest house. We have introduced new internal plans and guest room layouts while retaining and amplifying the existing building’s unique heritage features, and reinstating its lost features. This has resulted in new, character-themed guest rooms that eschew formulaic interiors – they feature a cool mix of heritage and contemporary details that are true to their own DNA and that of Surry Hills.
The design is village-like and involves a series of northward, southward, westward and upward extensions from the existing heritage building. Together with the secondary elements like pop-out metal boxes, steel Juliet balconies, aluminium or steel doors and windows and steel palisade fencing, they are expressed in different materials and colours, and are presented as a sequence. They are also well coordinated to create a good sense of contrast and balance with complementing opposites.
The design of the new extensions considers the existing neighbouring amenities very, very seriously, especially where natural sunlight is concerned. The new northern extension and the new western extension maintain similar setbacks as the existing heritage building. A green roof has also been introduced on top of the new northern extension to return the green outlook that was once enjoyed by some of the top ﬂoor apartment units next door.
Overall, the architecture and interiors evoke memories. Bricks used to be the main building block of many older buildings in the local area thanks to its proximity to Brickﬁeld Hill – an area south of early Sydney which was once used for brickmaking from the start of settlement. The industrial-looking glass lift tower is inspired by the local area’s industrial past from the 1850s.
The interiors are reminiscent of the different eras that the existing heritage building has gone through thanks to its art-deco, mid-century and retro-inspired interiors. The portraits in the stairwell of the existing heritage building are also reminiscent of the once-signiﬁcant ﬁgures in the local area’s history.
Little Albion Guest House is well and truly a microcosm of eclectic Surry Hills. It is an integral part of its surroundings, not a standalone building. It has been designed from the outside-in and from the inside-out. The aesthetics are about engaging memory, making memory and provoking memory.