Trisha Croaker July 08, 2012
Invited or otherwise, some lyrics stay with you forever. Like the chorus from a classic 1970s one-hit wonder. "Heritage to the left of me, Conservation to the right, Here I am, stuck in the middle with you." Bit of poetic licence, but that's how it played in a quiet Epping street, in Sydney's north-west, last week.
Rich with solid Federation homes, this suburb is criss-crossed by heritage items and conservation areas, interspersed with "less valuable" areas exposed to development. Those blocks not protected are undergoing rapid change, with sound homes replaced with an eclectic range of large, larger and largest houses.
Those not being demolished are proving vulnerable to unsympathetic alterations or additions, resulting in somewhat schizophrenic streetscapes.
Sitting in the middle of one rapidly evolving street is a house by Georg Straesser and Jacqui Collingwood of Straesser Architects, demonstrating a gentler approach.
Straesser, Collingwood and their clients agreed about the aesthetic, financial, environmental and social value of retaining what they had - a structurally good three-bedroom 1920s brick house. They agreed on what was to go - a less sound fibro and asbestos 1960s lean-to.
They agreed on their responsibility to the streetscape, to be mindful of their neighbours and maintain an appropriate frontage; on the need to create a "great space rather than the biggest house" they could; to reuse and recycle materials where possible; and to create a house that would not date.
Straesser's and Collingwood's design approach was to update the existing house, which became the bedroom wing. An awkward configuration of existing rooms was replaced with three bedrooms and an ensuite wrapped smoothly around an L-shaped hallway that delivered you into the new pavilion.
Externally, existing walls were left untouched to respect the street and home's history. Modern materials - such as a steel handrail for the entrance and powder coated aluminium louvres and sliding windows - were inserted to offer a contemporary feel and greater amenity without sacrificing the house's traditional roots. A garage was positioned underground.
Demolishing the lean-to, they then inserted a light living and dining garden pavilion. This houses dining and kitchen spaces snugly against the back of the old house, before folding across site to the living space - allowing all new rooms to be positioned around a courtyard and magnolia tree, and opening directly on multiple sides to outdoor areas.
"This house is very much about valuing and keeping the old, and equally about the visual relationship and connection between garden and outdoor areas and internal spaces," Straesser said.
Stuck in the middle of Epping in this house? Lucky "it's a very easy place to be" the owners say.