In the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, an 11-year-old orphan girl is mistakenly sent to a farming family, who had initially requested a boy. Inevitably, Anne – through her imagination and talkativeness – manages to convince her adopted family to let her stay, and she goes on to breathe life into the town of Green Gables.
In House of Green Gables, the Sydney-based residential project by Anton Kouzmin Architecture, the plot takes a more literal and urban turn. Although this story has certain parallels to the 20th-century novel – for instance, with themes of community and conversation – these elements are facilitated by architecture rather than a fiery, red-headed orphan.
The project consisted of the reconfiguration of a Victorian terrace to overlook a new rooftop garden. The gabled form of the existing roof was turned into a garden bed. Although the elevated garden is not pedestrianised, it provides a walkway for more-legged creatures.
“[While] the green roof isn’t trafficable, it serves its purpose to delight (butterflies arrived on installation) and to minimise glare and do our bit for reducing the heat island effect,” says Anton Kouzman Architecture in a design statement.
The green roof also serves as a link to the tree canopy of the adjacent park.
Inside, the home has been reconfigured for sociability of a more human kind. The brief specified that the owners wanted “a playful and emotional” interpretation of their existing terrace home. In response, Anton Kouzmin re-imagined the interior as a series of vertical and horizontal thresholds that were overlaid onto existing, “compartmentalised” rooms.
“The thresholds developed into a contiguous series of spaces intended to offer both a place to gather and a place to retreat,” says Anton Kouzmin. “The underlying principle of the house is one of optimism, of creating something together.
“[The client] wanted to expand their interaction with their outdoor space and that of the tree canopy borrowed from the adjacent park. A sense of tranquillity was to be established within the busy and social inner-city context. The owners enjoy participating in the vibrant neighbourhood community, however, also wanted to close the door and withdraw into a private and sun-filled realm. The owners’ school age son wanted his own room, rather than having toys and sleeping in separate spaces.”
On the first floor, a single line insertion – comprises a new stairwell and dual-sided bedroom joinery – was added. This is at the centre of the home’s circulation, establishing “a pathway through a double-height day-lit void [that hints] at the sunroom and roof garden above”. All of the rooms on the first floor were also reconfigured along this same principle: to allow maximum daylighting.
“The prevailing sense of inhabiting the house has changed from the introspective to an outward-looking quality as a result of the elevated attic addition and the contiguous flow of spaces to the first floor,” says Anton Kouzmin.
“One is unaware of the surrounding built form from within or even from looking out, only the green roof and tree canopy, thereby creating a sense of being outside in private.”