Whilst chic cafes and boutique clothing stores have long since driven out Balmain’s dockyards and gentrified its streets, this original 1860’s workers cottages survives; an evolutionary relic of contemporary Australian architecture. Etched into the locally grown weatherboards are the teeth marks of steam driven saws used in the old Balmain lumberyards and beneath its skin, roughsawn log studs reveal early modes of construction. Preserving and restoring the integrity of the existing cottage as part of the streetscape and the eclectic, urban fabric of Balmain was always key to the development of the site. Any addition needed to be sympathetic, sensitively yet distinctively bridging the divide between new and old.
In response, the addition evolved to sit behind and recessive from the original cottage. The new building is light, bright and contrasts spatially with the low, intimate spaces of the existing house. New and the old are united through a light connection, a transitional space at the focal point of the home that carves out an intimate courtyard and a soaring gateway to the residence. The brief from our clients was for “light, light and more light”; after several years of living in a tight, dark Victorian terrace the couple were ready to embrace the north- easterly aspect of their new block. Operating as an interface between the interior and exterior condition, the rear façade is a playful composition of strong, off-form concrete elements which mediate the light from the east and west and striking, fixed marble louvres that filter and attenuate northern light in summer yet allow it to be drawn deep inside during winter.
Controlling the light the light entering the home shields the building from excess solar-heat gain and aids in passive, thermal control. Not only utilitarian, the rear façade is central to the identity and character of the home, taking on an ephemeral quality as it captures and translates shifts in time and seasons. The marble louvres glow iridescent blue in the evening as the sun sets and cause dynamic bands of shade to play over the interior walls during the day. Voids over the kitchen and dining rooms open up the interior and give definition to the activities of the square, open-plan living spaces of the ground floor. On the upper level the library and main bedroom are organised around the apertures which connecting one space with the next and amplify the sense of light and openness that pervades the home.Architect: Carter Williamson Architects Project name: Balmain House