VISION Issue 16 - Page 27

27 the beautiful views to the beach, to the south of the Sydney harbor, we brought sunlight in and connected to the garden. It became about seven careful cuts into the building. It was our way of editing the duplex into a single house.   Was there a masterstroke moment? Not exactly that, but the huge central void with the new skylight brought light all the way down to the ground floor through the new staircase. It’s also a bigger house now with fewer rooms that flow much better. The operable windows are a revelation. Upstairs is now the living area because it offers the best views and we’ve installed pivot windows onto the old sun-room. It still functions like a sun-room but is now more fully connected. We removed the balcony walls so that it’s almost as if you sit on a very large enclosed balcony rather than living-room. Those windows offer a huge opening and views across the valley of Manly and beyond to the ocean. What are the operating principles behind the windows? They’re motorized and open at the press of a button and pressed again the y lock into position. We partly used the motorized windows because of wind loads. The crank-shaft of the mechanism braces the windows firmly in place. Are they wind-speed rated?   They’re engineered to handle a one in a hundred year winds. Is it a customized system, or off-the-shelf?   They’re customized frames and assemblies but the glazing is basically off-the-shelf Viridian ComfortPlusTM. How quickly did the essential design occur to you? It was a very quick project. Only a few months all up refining the design to suit our clients’ needs. Originally the living room was planned for downstairs. There was a bit of a process to work through that with the clients, to make sure the scheme was what they wanted because it wasn’t what they asked for. Were there surprises?   Yes, because our clients hadn’t imagined the house we proposed. What surprised me was how we could transform a house with so few incisions. It really has just seven holes cut into that pair of houses and it’s a complete transformation of how you could live. It invented whole new light qualities, connections within and opening to the garden context. What’s interesting is that it still appears to be the old heritage house it always was.   The quality of light available through a series of openings – rather than a single hero facade, can result in a very beautiful quality of light. That is something often not grasped and probably explains the benefit of those seven incisions and skylight/windows. I agree. It was much less about one big gesture and more about seven openings that were treated specifically and differently. One is a fixed window that acts like a kitchen splash-back that frames a tree. That window almost foreshortens the effect of the tree foliage. It’s as if the foliage is part of the kitchen via that transparent splash-back.   Was the bigger challenge technical or creative?   The technical challenge came working so quickly. We were on-site for only a few months and hadn’t fully sorted construction details. We figured it out with the builder with demolition underway. We worked closely with the builder and those details come together rapidly. Sometimes working on the fly isn’t altogether bad. It was a great way to work. And fun. There was an established relationship between the clients and builder, so they really trusted him, and the three of us worked hand-in-hand the whole way through construction. It was always the three of us in discussion about the details we presented on-site. What was the main design driver? The spaces will provide for many uses over the life of the building. Even though the cuts in the building are quite specific, we’ve avoided in-built furniture. We’ve tried to create robust, flexible spaces for a variety of uses.