Facing Sydney harbour, the position of this Vaucluse property is captivating but not without its challenges. The site’s unusual triangle shape and typography posed the biggest hurdle for the new owners and the architectural team.
Architecture: Tobias Partners
Landscape Design: Volker Kelmm
Photography: Justin Alexander
Architecture & Interiors
Tobias PartnersSydney Architectural firm, Tobias Partners, is well known for their timeless and finely crafted buildings. With a philosophy to provide a personal service, their projects are highly refined and in direct response to the client’s needs and the site’s context. The result is a collection of bespoke homes and interior spaces that nourish and uplift.
The Vauclase property’s challenging geometry was a factor all too evident in the existing home. Closed off and lacking connection to the enviable views, renovating it was off the cards with all parties agreeing a new build was in order.
“It’s a really unusual shaped site and with the triangle converging towards the view rather than opening out towards it makes the project more challenging,” explains Nick Tobias, founding principal of Tobias Partners.
Where one would naturally want to capitalise on the water views, the geometry of the land attempted to drive the house to become narrow and enclosed as it got towards the defining aspect. To counteract this, an L-shaped architectural form was realised allowing the house to fan out towards the harbour.
simplified palette + feminine lines
The Story Behind The Design
To further emphasise the feeling of openness, Tobias Partners focused on the contours of the building and a simplified materials palette consisting of render, exposed concrete and steel. The off-form concrete tapers as you move into the site, explains Nick, giving the illusion that everything is getting thinner and lighter as you get closer to the view.
Feminine curves were also introduced to respond to the site and avoid an aggressive, hard-edged building that is often perceived as visually jarring. “Because of the converging site, without curves, we would have ended up with a lot of acute, sharp angles,” says Nick. The curves help to diffuse the angles, taking any corners away. As a result, the strong, dominate form is softened.
Beyond the form, integral to the success of the building’s connection to the site was the surrounding landscape. The L-shaped design arrangement created space for a north-facing courtyard where there was ample opportunity to extend the living outdoors.
A mature oasis-like garden layered with textured foliage enclosed the building and allowed it to sit naturally into the site. Designed in collaboration with Volker Klem, the garden spaces formed a close connection with adjoining interior spaces. “The garden had many incarnations during the planning stage, from very minimal to lush forest,” explains Volker. “It’s a fine balance to create privacy with lush planting and keeping the garden open and spacious at the same time.”
It’s an unusual shaped house but those shapes provide amazing benefit, in particular the opening up and the connectivity to the outdoors and the views.
Take A Closer Look
Continuing to blur the boundaries between inside and out, Tobias Partners made what was to become the home’s defining feature by extending the robust Crazy Paving into the foyer located on the second level.
“The crazy paving accentuates the space feeling like a lobby, circulation area,” says Nick. “When entering, you’re not quite sure if it is an indoor or outdoor space, or whether the interior stair is internal or external.” The raw texture and patina of Porphyry stone creates a striking contrast against the clean, raw steel sculptural staircase and railing. The curvaceous form, a prominent detail of the home, was again driven by the idea of avoiding a hard-edge look.
Fittings & Fixtures
Moroso ‘Redondo’ armchairs
Molteni & C ‘Domino Next’ coffee table
Brokis ‘Balloons’ floor lamps
Moroso ‘Redondo’ armchairs
The building’s foyer, commonly referred to as the ‘knuckle’ space, was a particular highlight of the overall site responsive design. The knuckle space, located between the two lengths of the L form, consists of the feminine curves, a freestanding stair, an expansive vertical void and Crazy Paving extending outside in. “That is the golden nugget of the house that unlocks the greater potential”, says Nick.
“If you start trying to put a stair in the corner or attached to a structure that has severe angles, it becomes an aggressive form”, explains Nick. The freestanding element appears to be attached to nothing and has strong vertical connectivity between the three levels.
By locating the entrance and bedrooms on the middle level, Tobias Partners were able to create living spaces above and below. “When you have a living level on the top of the house, you have the opportunity for different vistas and to do different things with the roof itself”. In this case, the architects installed a large round skylight to create a lofty feeling and open the interiors up to the sky while also emphasising the home’s curved lines.
Its benefit is a garden experience with the crazy paving running through the outside and inside to really make the house feel earthy, rustic and warm.
The lower level, housing more living space, builds a connection to the landscape making it feel like a covered outdoor space. “Its benefit is a garden experience with the crazy paving running through the outside and inside to make the house feel earthy, rustic and warm,” says Nick.
The challenges of the shape and levels drove Tobias Partners to explore a different building than they tend to deliver. “It’s an unusual shaped house but those shapes provide amazing benefit, in particular the opening up and the connectivity to the outdoors and the views. Having to split living levels can be a challenge but its success is turning that challenge into a benefit for the occupants.”