A designer in a privileged position, a heritage-listed industrial building close to Sydney's CBD and an open rooftop with wrap-around views were all the ingredients required to create an enviable penthouse apartment enveloped by a native urban oasis.
Adam Haddow, Director SJB
SJB comprises of architects, interior designers, planners and urban designers who share a vision for the built environment. Working across Australia, Asia and Europe, SJB focuses on imagination and innovation, delivering stylish environments designed to enrich the lives of those who inhabit them.
Will Dangar, director William Dangar
William Dangar is one of Australia’s prominent landscape design practices creating high-quality outdoor spaces for residential and commercial projects. At the core of the Sydney practice is a focus on quality materials, clear communication, robust construction, and elegant design solutions.
Modernism, Art & Light
The Story Behind The Design
When SJB was appointed as the project architect for the redevelopment of the Demco Machinery buildings it was clear from the outset this was going to be an amazing project. Purpose built to showcase agricultural machinery, the heritage-listed buildings were ripe for conversion into highly desirable inner-city apartments.
“Our role was to modernise the existing building, add a new building to the rear lane, and convert the large warehouse footprints into contemporary apartments”, explains Adam.
While working on the project, Adam and his husband were considering a move from their apartment in Surry Hills as their desire for a garden deepened. “The challenge was on,” says Adam. “Could we find an apartment, close to the city that had a garden?”
The Cleveland apartments had all the attributes the couple wanted in a home: a stones throw form the CBD, rich in history, sweeping views and of course, space for a lush garden. The day the building’s sales campaign launched, the couple purchased the apartment off plan with a vision to create a home that felt like they were living within a garden.
Our ambition was to choose materials that had imbedded inherent qualities - materials that would age and patina.
What was originally an area to test drive the Demco Company tractors, the rooftop was to become an expansive garden with views of the Blue Mountains, Botany Bay and a tower-filled skyline. Pushing the garden into the living room, the outdoor space was integral to the apartment’s interior which was designed to draw the outside in and emphasise the robust and raw quality of the industrial warehouse.
“We wanted to build from this position – to not make the apartment too polished,” says Adam who noted it was also important to celebrate the age of the building.
Anna-Wiley Highfield's 'Red Tailed Black Cockatoo'
Franco Parisi acrylic bath
Serralunga Vas Two Pot
Robert Plumb 'Bollyhood' Tandoor Oven
Designing the apartment began with defining the external paving material, sourcing a product that could achieve a continuous finish for inside and out. Eco Outdoor Endicott™ split stone gave Adam the ability to stretch and expand the spaces. It was also the calming blue undertones and the texture that appealed. “It has a really small silver fleck through it so it catches the sun a little bit.”
To help take advantage of the opportunity the rooftop offered for a garden, Adam engaged friend and prominent landscape designer William Dangar. Through close collaboration, the two creatives were able to realise their vision of creating a space that drew the outside in and the inside out. “It was important the outdoor landscape spoke to the architecture, and more importantly for the built structure to appear to sit within the landscape”, says Will.
We thought simplicity was crucial for the landscape to not detract from the architecture but instead enhance it.
Take A Closer Look
Opting for a native-style landscape helped create the illusion the built form was enclosed within a wider landscape setting, explains Will. “It also paid homage to the refined untreated aesthetic of the building materials.” Dichondra repens planted in between the Endicott™ steppers further created the appearance of the garden growing into the fabric of the architecture.
The exterior elements were also woven into the interior finishes such as the Forest Green kitchen, inspired by the Boston Ivy climbing up the façade, and the ‘Denim’ blue bathroom tiles reflecting the sky.
Adam and Will both agree the nature of the rooftop, fit with an outdoor bath, custom-designed pond and outdoor entertaining area, is one of the property’s most successful elements. “How often do you get a 350 sqm garden at level 5 in a building overlooking the city!,” says Adam. “We take it for granted, but it really is unique – I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to leave it!”
Perched at the top of the building, creating such a desirable outdoor space delivered the challenge of craning mature trees onto the rooftop, a process which Adam recalls as being a “bit hair raising.” Strong winds also informed the planting choice, says Will who deliberately selected hardy natives such as Leptospermum laevigatum and Banksia serrata that could tolerate the conditions as well as become naturally sculptured overtime.
The payoff for the stress and stretching the budget and time frame came with the benefit of achieving an instant garden. “After 18 months living here, the garden has really settled in”, says Adam. “The Banksia’s on the roof have almost doubled in size!”
Reflecting on the success of the project Adam says: “In the end I think the judge of a great house is how it feels – a lot of things need to come together to achieve a relaxed and easy to live in vibe, without it feeling uptight or overly orchestrated. I think that we achieved this with the house – there is an incredible sense of calmness.”
While the external design typically falls secondary to the interior, in this case, it’s clear from the layout and emphasis on the outdoor space that the desire to create a home that feels enveloped in a garden has won out on this project.