Balmain Rock by Benn + Penna

  • Architecture firm Benn + Penna were tasked with transforming a petite 1860s sandstone cottage into a family home, on a narrow site in Sydney’s East Balmain.

    Driven by a ubiquitous respect for the original home, the Benn + Penna team removed a more recent addition and replaced it with a modern concrete and brick pavilion. The concrete and brick addition nods to the weight and solidity of sandstone and mirrors the original pitched roof while making a distinct statement from the old.

    The existing sandstone cottage is now a rich and earthy enclave for the main living room, linked to the new pavilion by a courtyard. Welcoming natural light and breeze into the middle of the home, the courtyard passageway marks a material journey into the kitchen and dining area.

    The exposed recycled brick and slate crazy paving gently guide the transition into the new, while accentuating the beauty and history of the architecture. Opening up onto the rear yard, the kitchen and dining areas are also doused in sunlight through a series of light wells.

    “The new addition echoes qualities of the existing cottage – in a rich dialogue of material, space and proportion – without undermining the old. Light is the binding element in the project, where fenestration and void space are strategically utilised to make the old and new elements inseparable.”


    – Andrew Benn, Director of Benn + Penna

    Emanating a renewed purpose, the Balmain Rock alteration and addition project was the worthy joint winner of the 2019 Houses Awards: House in a Heritage Context.

    This piece originally appeared in est magazine issue 34.

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