1 of 16 . Sydney

panovscott . 1 of 16 . Sydney (13)

panovscott Architects . photos: © Brett Boardman

This project is for the transformation of a single dwelling of high heritage significance. In isolation it is about the specific and radical increase in amenity that might be enabled by our intervention. But things are never in isolation and the specific conditions of the context position the project as 1 of 16 dwellings, built from the same plan and named Ulster Terrace.


It is the dual values that arise from an acute sense of the collective, from the point of view of the individual, whilst also recognising the manner in which the individual might be within the context of the collective. This is the core architectural idea of our project, hence the name.

Tasked with radically increasing amenity within the dwelling, but also cognisant the dwelling was both a heritage item and within a heritage conservation area, we began the design process by closely recording the existing condition. In the act of drawing we gathered not only the particulars of the original design, but each and every manner in which the 16 terrace houses had been modified since 1877. This gave us a language of preservation, addition and modification that came to define the terrace group.

Examples being the manner in which many of the dwellings had established ground floor additions that extended the full width of the site. Or the one dwelling that demonstrated an inflection of the rear skillion roof at the lane façade to make a shallow hip. We adopted this precedent in our design, though reversed it, then sliced off the resultant upward tilting triangular pyramid to enable a large skylight.

Another example was the rear splay window. Viewed from the rear lane it is vertically proportioned and of a similar size and height relation to those of the adjacent terraces. We were able to demonstrate enough variation within the pattern of the 16 that we might shift this window away from the centerline of the rear façade. In this case, so far that it hung off the side of the façade, offering such privacy and amenity for the space within.

Though a 4 bedroom home this project is an example of compact housing. The project benefits from the efficiency enabled by being so indelibly connected to the society in which it is located. The transformation also utilises renewable energy generation via photovoltaics and a solar hot water system, along with passive design principles such as good solar access to thermal mass, and cross ventilation.

Since our work in the place has lessened we have visited often and have experienced the wonderful way in which the family now lives in the transformation. We often wonder how this way of being might emanate beyond the specifics of the project, how our work might benefit society in general. Perhaps the act of architecture in this sense is a way of paying it forward. Does there need to be a demonstrable social benefit at the outset? Might the real wide-ranging benefit simply be to make people happy?

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