Located in the Sydney suburb of Glebe, just 2km from the city centre, the site is occupied by a grand two storey High Victorian style residence, circa 1870. Although the house is not a heritage item, together with its mature and eclectic Victorian gardens it is a contributory site in the local conservation area.
Work on the site began in 2002 with design of the front and rear gardens by landscape architects Terragram. Once a private zoo, Terragram's ‘Garden of Ghosts' retained and reused existing features to create a ‘seasonal chameleon' with canopies of flowering wisteria and walls of rampant ivy.
By 2006, quirky additions over time had created a rich and magical context in which AJ+C were asked to provide an additional dining area and bedroom with en-suite to the house, and address the lack of winter light in the formal living space. They conceived a double volume glass loggia that would be sheltered from the hot western sun by an existing cypress stand, to create an outdoor room in a way that acknowledges and accentuates the grand scale of the existing building, and is appropriate to the conservation area.
The loggia and new rooms are designed to explore and exploit the ambiguities between what is inside and what is outside. The loggia has the feel of a surreal garden element, creating an atmospheric space for contemplation, children's play and entertaining guests. A stainless steel mesh curtain shading the whole northwest façade operates to transform the spatial qualities of the garden for different family functions, and changes the perception of the new and old adjoining spaces.
The design respects the building's heritage by: Demolishing non-original building fabric that detracted from the appearance of the building, creating a transparent addition that is sympathetic to the scale and form of the principal building and constrains all of the new fabric beneath the eaves line of the principal roof. It adopts robust contemporary detailing using lightweight metal and glass materials in contrast to the existing visual character of the principal building. Furthermore, the minimal physical impact on the existing fabric of the house and new works enable the rules of reversibility to apply.