The old cowshed in Glebe, New South Wales, Australia has been designed by Carter Williamson Architects. The home was a surprising find; a rare opportunity to preserve some of the character and charm of this eclectic neighborhood and one the architects encouraged for their clients to seize when they sought their advice on purchasing the property. The cowshed sat on a small parcel of land bounded on three sides by roads. The building was simple, essentially a long brick wall that held the urban edge of corner and street and returned to house a few bedrooms in the place of the former stalls.
It was the most basic of accommodation but the shed had a worn patina of stories and was well situated, hugging the southern boundary with provision for a private, north facing courtyard. The clients share a vision for gregarious family life which is reflected in their home. The spaces are truly ‘open plan’, each room connected to the others and to the sunny, green courtyard that acts as a natural extension of the living spaces.
The plan of the house was kept largely as it was with the kitchen to the street corner, hidden behind the strong brick envelope and spilling over into the dining and living rooms. The kids’ bedrooms, replete with requisite hammocks, were tucked into the return of the L-shaped plan with a vivid red bathroom at the pivot, a nod to our client’s proud Venezuelan heritage.
By expanding the width of the building from three to four metres and locating the bedroom mezzanine above the kitchen, the urban edge of the street was held by a tall forward element much like the bald face shop fronts at the end of a row of terraces; a good urban response which marks corner buildings as distinctive landmarks in an urban streetscape.
The cowshed sits under a big jacaranda tree whose leaves and blooms blocked the valley gutters and flooded the existing house when it rained. In response, a long steep roof plane was pulled up and over the second storey bedroom and tucked down at the rear of the site, designed to prevent accumulating organic matter and giving the building it’s distinctive profile.
A ribbon of high clerestory windows that capture light and breeze, wrap the building and climb upwards with the roofline allowing the home to feel bright but private, despite it’s dense urban context.
Wherever possible the existing building fabric of the original cowshed was preserved, but sadly much was structurally unsound. What was rebuilt carries the spirit of the cowshed, composed from a palette of simple, robust materials that simultaneously address the restraints of the tight budget; concrete slabs were polished as flooring, recycled bricks left as face for the internal walls and the timber structure exposed. Oiled timber doors and windows and corrugated cladding hint at the Australian pastural vernacular now all but forgotten in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
Photos: Brett Boardman
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