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Project in Detail

Small House

Sydney, Australia
Domenic Alvaro, Sydney, Australia
World Architecture Festival 2011 - Category Winner

Small House Exterior - Night 
Trevor Mein - meinphoto Pty Ltd 

Small house is an ultra-compact concrete vertical house that adds to the urban fabric of inner city Surry Hills in Sydney. The site is so small it can fit into the garage of your typical sprawling suburban home (7mx6m). The philosophy of small house proposes to build upwards rather than outwards, by assigning multiple uses to single spaces, with flexibility for change in the future.

It is a house designed for myself and partner Sue “+ 1”.

With flexibility for change a single space can be subdivided into multiple zones:
• Ground floor: utility/store/bicycle/parking
• First floor: sleeping/bathing, storage,
• Second floor: living (with optional additional zone for sleeping)
• Third floor: food prep/eating/entertainment
• Roof: a ‘working’ roof garden terrace (the circulation space enables a small study on the roof space, and the panel sliding doors open to enable the roof to become the 5th room of the house- albeit an outdoor room and herb, flower garden with over-scaled fig tree; thus creating a canopy effect )
The above program is all connected by a series of pre-fabricated stairs - these draw air out through each level via roof-top sliding doors, maximizing vertical cross-ventilation. The large sliding windows maximise daylight, ventilation and frame city views; whilst the solidity ensures privacy from surrounding commercial buildings and good thermal mass. A services riser connecting each level enables the reticulation of all services and additional storage.

With an eco-conscious spirit in mind (and relatively modest budget), innovation was required for the construction, based upon a model of pre-fabrication. The two basic ideas were a structure with no columns to make effective use of the limited land area, and to achieve a final result which erased the sense of individual panels - in effect to make the building feel monolithic.

The collaboration and integration of all specialist engineers and consultants fuelled the project to existence. The philosophy was to preplan the entire project so that as many components could be pre-made in the factory. The structure, built entirely from high quality precast concrete (including floors), was fabricated off-site, and erected on site over a four day period. Wall and floor panels, cast in provisions for stairs, balustrades, windows, light fittings, and the like produced off-site, minimised on-site construction time and disturbance to the surrounding neighbourhood. Low-E comfort plus glazing, also reduces the reliance on mechanical air-conditioning.

Small house investigates a new typology in the current urban living space, whilst still reflecting a contemporary lifestyle full of diversity and creativity; all for the cost of a city apartment. Locally, Small House has created a sense of safety and amenity in its immediate precinct and has completed the streetscape. Today, Small House, its architecture and sense of place, is appreciated by onlookers forming part of the Sydney City Architecture Walking routes.

As the sizes of cities continue to sprawl endlessly, Small House proposes an affordable way to live in the inner city and most importantly avoids the need to cope with the grueling commute.

Lead Architect »

Domenic Alvaro

Professional Credits »

Mr Nicholas Bettar
Baseline Constructions
+61 2 9080 2222

Environmental Engineer
Mr Domenic Alvaro
Domenic Alvaro

Joinery Contractor
Karisma Joinery

Landscape Architect
Mr Daniel Baffsky
360 Degrees
+61 2 9212 2204

Lighting Consultant

Precast Consultant
Hanson Precast

Structural Engineer
Waterman International