Architects working on the design of a Federation property extension in Sydney chose terracotta tiles from Monier Roofing to help the house conform to heritage requirements.

The owners of this house located in Haberfield in Sydney’s inner west first purchased the Federation property because of its relatively large block of land and close proximity to the CBD. The house had two yards, one on each side, which were not very well connected while the ‘awkward garage’ space was never used as a garage.     

Seeking to redo the garage and back extension while keeping the original house, the owners hoped to create a liveable and usable space that connected better with the outdoor areas, and also connected the two sizable yards on each side. Working on this brief, David Welsh of Welsh + Major Architects proposed a new pavilion to house the new kitchen and dining space, and link the house back to its outdoor spaces.

A major challenge lay in designing something that would get through planning and approval with the Council, as Haberfield lay within one of Australia’s earliest architectural conservation areas. Though the owners wanted a modern, contemporary theme, conforming to heritage requirements would have been difficult. The architects began exploring different materials that would become the link to the house’s heritage past while meeting the current owners’ requirement for a contemporary design aesthetic.

David Welsh found the solution in terracotta, a familiar sight in the landscape of the area. Describing the material ‘as a stitch in the landscape – the landscape being the terracotta roofs’, he said they were distinct and gave the area its character.

Wanting to use roof tiles on vertical surfaces, Welsh + Major had to look at ways to get around that by referencing 1970s architecture. The Marseille profile chosen from Monier Roofing’s collection matched the original house’s roof tiles, as well as those of the immediate neighbours.

It was the innovative use of terracotta roof tiles that proved to be the bridge between the mandatory heritage requirements and the owners’ desire to build a contemporary extension to their house.

According to David Welsh, the Council really liked the idea of using terracotta roof tiles, which helped the project get approved.

Another reason for the decision to use terracotta roof tiles was the authenticity of the material. Terracotta is a natural, genuine and sustainable material that comes from the earth and can be recycled. It also has a natural warmth and beauty that many other materials just don’t have.

The success of the Haberfield House was celebrated at the annual Think Brick Awards in August 2014, when Welsh + Major Architects received the newly added Roof Tiles Excellence Award, a category that recognises design excellence in the use of roof tiles for both commercial and residential projects.

According to the Roof Tile Excellence Award Jury:

“The conceptual directness of this project belies its extraordinary sophistication. This is an innovative addition to a federation house that respects the qualities of the neighbourhood and reenergises the building for a new generation.”

Image: Terracotta tiles were innovatively used on the vertical surfaces of the house