Parent retreat South Coogee

The project involved transforming a relatively small, single levelled post war period cottage into a contemporary, comfortable house for the modern young family. The brief involved locating a quieter, spacious master bedroom with ensuite within a new upper floor, opening up the living areas to the rear of the entry level and finally, incorporating a large family area with amenities within an existing sub floor space. This area looked out onto a large deck, lap pool and landscaped garden.

All spaces where to be contained within a totally reconfigured roof and upper built form that was contemporary, outward looking, light and breezy. It also needed to maintain its current footprint and double fronted form to the street whilst resolving the often conflicting needs of privacy and light from the same northern street orientation. To the rear, the building had to open up to the district views afforded by its elevated position.

Relationship to the urban and natural environment

This location of Rainbow Street Coogee has been undergoing urban transformation for some 30 to 40 years. Many inter and post war period cottages have been made over, altered or simply demolished for new contemporary homes. Many allotments, like those opposite this project to the north, have been amalgamated to accommodate larger, three storey walk up apartments built in the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. As a consequence, Rainbow Street has become the transitional boundary between the multi unit flat buildings to the north and the smaller scaled single dwellings to the south.

Not only has this zoning change created a linear fault line across an assortment of different building types and architectural styles but it has also taken place at a natural juncture where the elevated land forms to the north gradually fall towards the east, west and south, the location sitting atop of a spreading ridge that brings views towards the wider district of Coogee and the coastal strip. At such a position, this development has responded in a number of important ways.

To the Rainbow Street address, the double fronted forms with smaller, hooded windows have been retained to maintain privacy from the unit buildings opposite and to reflect the scale and rhythm of similarly articulated adjoining single storey residences. The high front fence has been retained for privacy but rendered and made more transparent with louvres and planting.

The double fronted elements have been squared off with parapet forms to project out from, and contrast with, a well setback floating pitched roof. Under this protecting overhang, high level vertical banks of glass louvred windows have brought light, breeze and sun into the front bedrooms, foyer and living areas without opening them to the unit buildings opposite.

Now, almost totally screened by this lower roof, a still higher roof with contrasting pitch rises discretely above the building to contain an upper floor parents retreat. Again, large high level banks of louvred windows bring sunlight and an escape route for southern sea breezes from the south. The master bedroom is consequently light, airy and open. It’s high position capturing leafy district views to the south, sun to the north, while occupying a private, separated space from the rest of the family.

From the rear, the upper storey addition creates a sheer three storey facade with the only modulation being low level projecting family areas and balconies of light weight structure. Behind the glass, a light filled house draws sun from the northern skylights to the front and distant views with cooling breezes to the south.

Contribution to contemporary and historic settings

Whilst conceived from a clear brief and a direct response to the site and its surrounds, the resulting new roof forms have totally transformed this post war home into a thoroughly contemporary building. Although large parts of the existing structure were re used, it is easy to imagine the project as a total rebuild. Not one that began as a relatively low cost response to a subdivision but rather, one which uses present day ideas and material to respond to the seemingly urgent needs of a modern family.

Use what can be re used, find simple methods of adapting the house to its environment, express the resulting forms using current materials.


Coogee house significant addition

263 Rainbow Street, Coogee – 3-storey, 5-bedroom, swimming pool, free-standing house
Randwick City Council jurisdiction

Photography: peterendersbeephotography




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