Technically, Luigi Rosselli’s most recent residential project – Bougainvillea House – is a renovation to an existing dwelling. Realistically, almost three quarters of the original structure – subsequently referred to as a “1950s two-storey ugly duckling of a house” by the architects – was demolished. In its place sits a tall, lean, three-storey home, designed for a film director and his young family.
It wasn’t so much the outdated design of the existing building that proved a challenge to the architectural firm, but rather the tight area constraints of the site, compounded by strict restrictions enforced by the local council. Luigi Rosselli says that this economy of space forced them to “think clever”, with the result being a split-level three-bedroom home that deftly straddles its functional and aesthetic requirements.
The concept of “Raumplan” – a planning method developed by Adolf Loos, based on the plan-based configuration of space and the discretion of individual room size – inspired the interlocking room design of Bougainvillea House. The rooms fit together “Tetris-style” as a dextrous solution to wall boundaries and council limitations.
Another challenge posed by the site was its sloping topography. To combat this, Luigi Rosselli conceived of a split-level floor plate that – by horizontally separating the front and back of the house – works organically around the slope. While the front of the house contains three storeys, the rear of the house contains two (albeit taller) storeys that contain a living room and a lightwell.
The name of the Sydney terrace comes from the Bougainvillea tree that dominates the courtyard of the street-facing entrance. A “balconet” has been designed to sit over the north-facing terrace, with views over the colour-rich canopy. Further views can be accessed from the upper level of the master bedroom via a recessed window. The “panoramic” design capitalises on views across to Sydney Harbour and Bellevue Hill, which sits on the other side of the valley.
A second courtyard sits as a mid-point between the rear of the house and the garage slash studio space. An olive tree has been planted here, around which is an area of open play space for the children. Thanks to an outdoor wood-burning fireplace, the function of this second courtyard is trans-seasonal.
“From the internal courtyard, the façade architecture is a practical placement of timber windows and shutters,” says Luigi Rosselli. “The small-scale elements – such as the shutter blades, the fish-scale balustrade and the small window panes – are intentionally placed to provide a fine texture of materials.”
The garage itself has also received a new architectural identity as part of the re-design process. The old garage has been completely rebuilt, although the shape of the raked garage roof can still be seen at the bottom of the attic studio. This latter was built over the top of the existing garage.
A third challenge of the site was the fact that Luigi Rosselli’s client for Bougainvillea House was a film director, meaning a high level of aesthetic consideration was required. “Engaging imagery” has been incorporated throughout internal and external design elements of the home. For instance, the stair balustrade is adorned with a ‘fish scale’ brass screen. An integrated dining seat takes inspiration from the Michelin Man and from the style of Irish furniture designer, Eileen Gray.
Cast-iron lacework – typical of Victorian terrace homes in the 19th century – features strongly as an accent in the façade design of Bougainvillea House. Here, however, they transcend the aesthetic and technological limitations of their designated century. For their creation, Luigi Rosselli looked to the design of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s palace in Potsdam, and took from it a fish scale pattern created from CNC routed steel plates.
“The front gate and Juliet balcony balustrade, both cut from steel plate, bridge the centuries in the same way as this row house bridges with the venerable adjoining older houses,” says Luigi Rosselli.
“This Woollahra terrace demonstrates that, even on a small site, you can fit a home with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a guest flat, a garage, [and] an open-plan living, dining [and] kitchen suite without missing out on a study, dressing room, laundry, balcony, lightwells and two courtyards.”