Birchgrove House

On a steep water-front site, this late Victorian Sydney cottage gets a bold new identity, highlighting its sandstone heritage and connection to the harbour. Renamed Wurrungwuri (‘the side of the river’) the house is now a tectonic experience of light, shade and spatial ambiguity.


Location Birchgrove, NSW - Traditional Custodians: Wann Peoples
Commission 2017
Groundbreaking 2020
Completion 2022

Our Team

Shaun Carter
Ben Peake
Julie Niass
Tai Lien


Landscape Architecture Jane Irwin Landscape
Structural Engineering Rebal Engineering
Construction Artechne
Photography Brett Boardman
Photography Pablo Veiga
Styling Claire Delmar


NSW Architecture Awards, Residential - Alterations & Additions Shortlist
NSW Architecture Awards, Interior Architecture Shortlist
NSW Architecture Awards, Heritage Shortlist
NSW Architecture Awards, COLORBOND Award for Steel Architecture Shortlist
INDE. Awards, The Interior Space Shortlist
Houses Awards, Alterations & Additions Over 200m2 Shortlist
National Trust (NSW) Heritage Awards, Architecture Shortlist
Australian Interior Design Awards, Residential Design Shortlist
Marrickville Medal Finalist
IDEA Awards, Residential Interior Curation Highly Commended
IDEA Awards, Residential Single Shortlist
Inside: World Festival of Interiors, Residential (Single Dwelling) Shortlist

Wurrungwuri is a house designed to celebrate artworks, the cylindrical staircase is itself a work of art.

One of the first houses constructed on its street, the four-room cottage was built in 1881, with sandstone quarried from the site. Extensions were added throughout the 20th century, with no cohesion from one to the next. These alterations were removed and a new harbour-facing extension integrated, cascading over four distinct levels, cut deep into the sandstone bedrock. Linking old with new is a light-filled cylindrical staircase, encased in artfully tessellated white bricks.

This home is about celebrating the joy of family life and gathering, a celebration as joyous as the hosts themselves.

The new plan cleaves into two wings reaching towards the harbour. Rooms are interwoven across these levels, infused with a sense of both the monumental and the playful, social space and the very private. Upper levels see wistfully curved light apertures, carved from the concrete strata, while lower levels reveal the cut sandstone escarpment. A tiny rooftop terrace makes an intimate retreat, while a joyful Juliette balcony looks internally over the stairs from a guest room.

Bringing together new and old; old and new, is not an uncommon architectural approach, but Wurrungwuri feels different.

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