The watcher an the watched

A sculptural insertion wedged tightly between two villas on either side and with roads in the front and back, this Freeman's Bay house was designed by Daniel Marshall in 2006. It stands out as much for its Tardis-like quality as for its clever design quirks on an inauspicious site. Set on a sloped and curved 465 square metre section, a mere 10.5 metres wide, it's hard to imagine how it could contain a pool, a garden, a courtyard, and a house with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living areas and a full bar. “It was a tricky little site and I think the house functions really well in the space provided,” Marshall say

Inside the house, at the entrance to the living area, two extended mirrored walls stretch out, one Holding back to reveal a fully-stocked bar, hidden sound system, bathroom and staircase, and the other reflecting the view from the wide front window, looking out across a tree-lined reserve. This, in effect, opens up the living area; the architect assumes us that, “people sitting at the table all get a good view — there's no bum seat in the house!”

The original house, which Marshall describes as a “falling-down, brick and tile buhgalow-cross-disaster”, was removed entirely from the site, and plans were drawn up to make best use of the city and park views, children's and adults’ entertaining areas and to provide a backdrop for the owners art collection. The client's guidelines were straightforward: “Basically, what I wanted was something where the kids and I could have our own spaces. lt had to have a pool, of eourse, and it had to be easy living — I didn't want to have to worry about maintenance. And it had to look good."

Featuring simple white walls, black granite countertops, pale Tasmanian Oak flooring, white dining chairs at a glass table and black couches, the living area is a clean, monochromatic space. “I do quite like to keep things monochromatic,” Marshall admits. “I think architecture is kind of like creating a theatre. We provide the backdrop for the people, for the drama.”

Marshall had his work cut out for him in creating dow between the two completely different architectural forms on either side of the property. Rather than using a fence, he deployed alternating black cedar batons, which are repeated in the cladding on the top level of the house, to echo the weatherboard cladding of the surrounding houses. “The main street frontage was conceived as a folding of form to adopt the facade lines of the two disparate neighbouring architectural typologies.” Rejecting on this now, Marshall says: “I love the aesthetic still — it's a sculptural intervention in a heritage area. It respects the setbacks and proportion of the surrounding character but says something new. When people walk past they suddenly look up surprised, like, ‘what is that doing here?’

The issue of people looking up into the house was one much discussed at the time of building. The dining room is at the very front of the house, right at street level and proudly on display for anyone walking past. Marshall says this arangement was exactly what the owners wanted. “Some people like being on display,” he says. “But it's not too public, it faces a park, and there are blinds that you can put down."

The house was sold last year, and Marshall added on some motorised external blinds for the new owners — so it would seem that not everyone enjoys the public liféstyle. “The new owners love the house and love living there.” Marshall says. “They're quite a bit older than the client who commissioned the house, but they love the aesthetic and functionality I don't think they have quite so many parties though!”

The watcher an the watched / Daniel Marshall Architects
The watcher an the watched / Daniel Marshall Architects
The watcher an the watched / Daniel Marshall Architects