Westwood House

2003 - 2004
Sydney, Australia

After a series of built and unbuilt rural and coastal houses this project, in a medium density inner suburb of Sydney, has allowed us to re-visit the complexities of the single family (urban) dwelling. It is also the first house which I have designed in a city other than Melbourne. Our client is a couple who relocated from England a few years ago and who are unapologetic fans of the English Architect John Pawson. They have three young children.

A lap pool borders the north side of the site and runs alongside the house which is 17m x 4.5m split over four levels.  Two of the levels are cut into the site to form a basement and a trussed steel box is suspended over this level to form the main accommodation of the building. The entire building is wrapped in an operable ‘solar skin’ – a combined UV filter and solar collector which protects the façade while at the same time filtering sunlight and absorbing sunlight for use as electricity. This enhancement of the skin as a power source is a characteristic of our most recent projects and highlights the potential of the façade as a truly organic building element.

The plan re-visits some of the ideas of the Faraday St House – journey mystery discovery + reward and achieves these abstract notions with simple devices. The main living room (the first room encountered upon entry) is a long narrow reception space from which there is no apparent exit. It runs alongside the lap pool and has a fireplace at one end. Three doors disguised as panels take the visitor to three discrete parts of the house all connected via this (first) space. One door leads upstairs to the Children’s Dormitory and Playroom. A second door leads to the parents Bedroom and the third door leads to the Kitchen Meals and informal Living Room. Like the labyrinth library in Umberto Eco’s The Name of The Rose this circulation strategy creates distance in the journey (thus enhancing the illusion of space in a small building) and mystery ( thereby enhancing the sense of discovery)