The existing dwelling, titled “O’Brian house,” is an Art Deco house created in 1938 for John Patrick O’Brian, a librarian. The property is significant due to the highly distinctive gabled and hipped roof, as expressed by unusual brick window hood details and the curved entry porch formed all set on a corner site.
The owners required more usable space, light, a better relationship to the outside, an extra bedroom and a modern fit-out throughout.
Our approach was to create a shadow of the existing form, a modern sympathetic “copy” of the O’Brian house which offers a simple homogeneous sculptured form, carefully positioned to complement the original building.
The house had to offer privacy from the busy south-facing side street while benefitting from northern sunlight. Therefore, the new monolithic form is windowless to the south side street with the ground floor set back to the south boundary. The roof form mirrors the existing roof pitch, while the first floor is set against the north boundary (away from the street) to respect the original house’s form and present the original chimney. Careful thought and detail went into the design of the external skin of the new building to ensure a simple clean aesthetic, removing all superfluous visual elements.
The majority of the existing house was retained, with only the rear skillion, wet room fit-outs and an internal wall removed. The ground floor living area was opened up with the addition of a meals area. The existing bathroom was also enlarged and functions as an ensuite/bathroom. The first floor contains a third bedroom with adjacent ensuite. There is a large 4.7m x 0.6m skylight on the north side of the first floor roof, offering light to the bedroom and ensuite while still providing privacy from the street/neighbours. A retractable awning over the skylight regulates light and temperature.
One unique feature of the house is the “hidden” sliding side gate. The council would not allow off-street parking or a dedicated cross over. Therefore, a rear side fence secretly slides back into the house wall to provide vehicle access if required.
The shadow house, a three-bedroom inner city residence on a small site offers a sympathetic response to historically sensitive inner-city living.