The evolution of Spiegel Haus was a somewhat unusual one for the practice; par for course is an intimate and much valued dialogue with clients through each step of the design and construction process; conversations that bring great richness to a project and encourage responsive iteration. Early on with Spiegel Haus it was clear that Simon and Astrid had a different approach; once they had done the hard work of selecting their architect and communicating their brief they were prepared to trust and support our ideas for their home. The design, approval and construction processes were fast moving and liberating and yet we felt the weight of responsibility to deliver a project that would be beautifully crafted and reflective of both carter williamson and our clients’ young family.
With Simon and Astrid’s implicit trust, there was a freedom to take ideas that the practice had been playing with for many years and to resolve them more fully; the use of mirrors to bring light into the deep, square plan was something we’d suggested to a number of clients in the past, but perhaps because of our own glimmer of uncertainty about whether they’d make a house feel like a fun park, they’d never been installed. The Spiegel Haus’s namesake mirrors line the deep, slot void and bring light into the heart of the plan as we’d hoped, but also provide wonderful happen-chance views of the trees and sky beyond, casting diaphanous trails of light along the walls and onto the polished concrete floors.
The lot has the advantage of running between a street and long, garage lined rear lane and we felt it was important to give the home a strong street address, set as it was amongst a mix town houses and warehouses and single storey-residences, and to provide passive surveillance to the rear lane. To Lawrence St the front door is given prominence by setting it into the negative space created by pulling apart the old, single storey façade which was retained for council street scape conditions and the tall, new element which rises to mimic the heights of surrounding developments. To the lane, a studio atop a garage holds the corner of the boundary with a pocket balcony deliberately surveilling the distinctly urban vista like a watchtower.
The studio acts as study, future teenage retreat and home-away-from-home for a string of international visitors, accommodating multiple, overlapping programs to avoid material and spatial wastage, despite the rare luxury of a double-sized lot in Sydney’s Inner West, leaving room for a generously sized yard and an outdoor room, functioning as a grey zone between the yard and the house.
With frequent guests and a home that operates across three levels, the use of grey-ironbark throughout the interiors was conceived as an inherent way-finding device that would orient and lead visitors through the home. The sculptural Iron Bark stair sits at the heart of the home, bleeding out at each floor to define the path of circulation.
Key to the brief was that the home be restful and low-maintenance. These ideas are reflected in the materiality of the interiors; pine lining boards replace plasterboard on the walls and ceilings; polished concrete floors set the stage for scooters and rugs, and gracefully aging marble is a motif throughout. Rich timber elements and billowing curtains bring warmth and tactility to the interiors.
We feel that Spiegel Haus is exemplar in the way it responds to the constraints of inner-city living and the complexities of family life through careful spatial planning and materiality in order to maximize space, light, longevity and joy.
Material Used :
1. Ironbark – Staircase
2. Black Granite - Benchtop
3. Bowral Blue Bricks - Facade
4. Western Red Cedar – Window Frames and Shutters
5. Black Stained American Oak - Joinery