BUILDING AN ADDITION OFTEN INVOLVES considerable alteration to at least part of the existing structure. In the case of this Artarmon house, Melocco and Moore Architects chose to construct the addition as unobtrusively as possible by making it a separate pavilion connected to the existing house by a narrow hallway.
The original house is a single-storey dwelling in the inter-war bungalow style, with a single-hipped terracotta roof and brick walls. To the north is a rear yard containing several mature trees, including a large tallowood tree that’s at least 150 years old and possibly a remnant of the area’s original forest. The architects’ design concept was to build the addition into the rear yard while maintaining the envelope of the original house and working around the old tree.
A gentle slope in the site allowed the pavilion to be built on two levels, which are markedly different in their construction. The eastern upper level has a solid slab base and brickwork walls. The lower western level, where the building comes close to the tallowood tree, is made of lightweight timber with minimal footings to lessen the impact of the structure on the tree’s root system. The study, the closest room to the tree, has been set back and cantilevered. The whole pavilion is covered by a simple single-pitched roof, which contrasts with the traditional double-pitch of the original roof.
The new addition contains the kitchen, dining and living areas, arranged in an open plan style, while the bedrooms and main bathroom are contained in the original budding. The old and new sections of the house are connected by a linking element consisting of a hallway, second bathroom and laundry. This part of the addition has been kept low so that it fits in under the eaves of the old house without disturbing the roof. It is also narrow enough to allow sun to reach the northern side of the original building.
Inside the pavilion, simple shapes and understated furnishings in solid blocks of colour create an atmosphere of cool elegance, while natural wood finishes add a welcoming note. Elements are repeated to provide a strong sense of cohesiveness, such as the narrow horizontal windows which are mirrored in the shape of the bookcases. A bold central element in the form of a low granolithic wall divides the two levels, houses the fireplace and provides a focal point for the space.
On the northern side of the pavilion, the outside splendour of the garden is drawn in through large windows and glass doors. These doors fold back to open up the northern face of both levels, creating a smooth transition from the living areas to the terrace and deck.
By designing the addition as a separate element, instead of an adjunct to the existing building, Melocco and Moore have shown that contrast can be just as appealing as consistency. The old and new sections of the house fit together well, both fine examples of their respective eras.