Coogee corner house

An alteration and addition to a corner house in Coogee

Project summary and description

On a corner site in Coogee, a simple hipped roof, single storey, rendered brick house provided little protection or comfort from a busy street intersection and commercial hub. The owners wanted a larger family home, not only to provide more space and light but also to respond to the array of activity which buffeted their site. Sun, wind, privacy, traffic, shops, cafes, buses, petrol stations, all had an impact on their idea of home as both a place of refuge and control.

The brief required much of the existing house and garage to be left intact to prioritise funds towards a new upper floor “retreat” and back yard swimming pool. The relocation of bedrooms upstairs was to free up space at the rear of the house for day time activities and improve the connection to the outdoors. Whilst a buffer was needed between these new spaces and the two street frontages, there could be no corresponding loss of sun, light and site connection. The rejuvenated home needed both.

Relationship to the urban and natural environment

There is more than one intersection at the corner of Bream Street and Carrington Road. It also represents the intersection of the inter and post war period cottages with the small commercial hub of shops, cafés and restaurants. It is the meeting of the dense, tree lined domestic street with the more open, busier arterial road. It is where a localised low point occurs as traffic, and sometimes storm water, come down from both the north and south along Carrington Road. It is a position where distant urban backdrops are seen against the raising land forms running up from the coast. It is also where lower and higher density housing come together. It is here that this project sits, between one environmental condition and its intersecting other.

To straddle such a critical intersection, the new works needed to bring together the domestic scaled roof elements of Bream Street with the parapet forms of Carrington Road. This is achieved through the use of both roof forms as the upper storey transitions around the corner. Softer, more modulated forms address Bream Street through a remodelled front veranda, dormer roof element and green foliage. However, these forms give way to the cleaner building edge along Carrington Road where horizontal wall cladding and a retained, high timber fence form a back drop to a single, densely foliaged tree. Both architectural treatments are connected by a large corner window, looking down on and seen from all approaches to and within the busy intersection.

Where the building finishes and the rear yard begins, a row of tall, strappy trees provide a natural screen between the street edge and the new swimming pool. In this area, and to the end of the deck, a higher timber fence with a solid timber screen reinforces the visual and acoustic separation. Accordingly, a greater distance is provided to the recreational areas of the garden and pool decking as the garden stretches east, layering these different uses away from the busy road.

To lessen heat build up from the western sun, windows to this facade are provided with sun hoods and located at high level. They are smaller in area and where necessary, screened behind dense foliage. Together with the ground floor windows, acoustic treated glass is provided to exclude the noise. Nevertheless, elongated district views are captured by these same windows, a familiar framed picture of the Randwick skyline including church.

Similarly, district views to the north are provided to the master bedroom via larger windows, to this orientation, now easier to protect from high level sun using projecting, all enclosing sun hoods.

To the south, where heat build up no longer threatens, a large feature window allows the leafy trees of the front garden and street to cast a soft light into the front living spaces and stair void. The house is provided atmosphere and tranquillity from the more passive, leafy environment of this street.

In such a way, the house becomes a mediator between the home and the unfiltered elements outside. Those beneficial aspects of the streetscape and the wider district are allowed in whilst the harsher aspects of the public realm are kept at a distance.

Contribution to contemporary and/or historic settings

Given the complex array of intersecting influences upon the building envelope, it seemed a natural progression to express it in a contemporary way, multifaceted and transitional, reflecting the changing nature of the local environment. The south eastern corner is lower in height and with contemporary interpretations of the domestic scale found in Bream Street. The south western corner has a large feature window, punctuating the very visible corner and providing an eye over the busy intersection. The western wall abuts the busy arterial road with horizontal contemporary wall cladding, separated in the middle to form a back drop to an existing street tree. Lastly, the northern façade wraps away from the west with a modern interpretation of the hipped veranda roof, connecting the pool and the outdoor entertaining areas including a small bar, family living space and timber deck.

In this way, the building contributes to the resolution of a number of existing architectural urban forms and conditions. There is recognition of the small, pitched roofed cottages in Bream Street, the typical parapet roof forms of the commercial and residential buildings opposite and finally, a transition to the contemporary rendered brick homes found further up the hill towards Waverley.

Environmental sustainability

Passive solar design of the rear alteration and addition featured prominently in the architectural brief. It was important that sun and light were allowed into the house but the strong heat generated by the open western side was minimised. Accordingly, windows in the western wall were given sun hoods, kept at a higher level and located behind screen planting where window sills were lower. These windows were also insulated to help maintain even internal temperature.

Wrapping around all sides of the northern windows to the upper floor, sun hoods allowed larger openings and provided year round control of the sun. Similarly, the generous veranda roof below ensured the larger folding doors and windows to the ground floor were able to open up to the rear garden and pool without excessive heat build up.

Conversely, southern windows brought in softer light without the threat of summer heat, combining with skylights over the stair to bring a similar light quality flooding down from the top floor.

Beneath the engineered timber wall cladding and Colorbond roof sheeting, air gaps with substantial thermal and sound insulation blankets have contributed to further temperature control, particularly against the western summer sun. By combining the insulation effects of the building envelope with the sun control measures to windows, a reduction in both artificial lighting and mechanical air-conditioning loads have been achieved.

Finally, when finances permit, the low roof parapet forms will provide the potential for a good number of concealed solar panels and a centralised system of rainwater collection directed to both sides of the house.

Excellence in design:

The alterations and additions at Bream Street were conceived as a practical design response to a growing family’s need for space, comfort, protection and control of their home against an array of intersecting natural and man-made activity – pedestrian and car traffic, a meeting of domestic and commercial architectural forms, high western exposure to the weather, a localised low point for water runoff and car movements, heightened, more public pedestrian areas and a contrasting eastern leafy environment compared to the openness of the commercial hub. In the face of all this, the property is given the chance of open district views, lots of sunlight, convenient amenities and a hub of cultural and social activities to which to connect. Excellence in design can achieve good outcomes, even when dealt such conflicting environments. The finished house now stands equipped to bring the comforts of home whist engaging with the many benefits of its immediate environment.


Coogee alteration and upper storey addition
4-bedrooms including master bedroom and ensuite
Bream Street, Coogee
Randwick Council Jurisdiction

Photography: Andrew Krucko

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