Indigo Slam – A piece of sculpture to be lived in
Indigo Slam, the home of White Rabbit Gallery owner and philanthropist Judith Neilson. Designed by Smart Design Studio, the brief was to build “the best house in the world” that will “last 100 years”. The style is minimalist, built using mainly concrete, steel, glass, marble and loose bricks — materials that were selected for their wearing properties and pay homage to the home’s inner city warehouse past.
Approaching from O’Connor St, a patterned steel screen opens to lead the visitor into a generous coved vestibule. From here, the space compresses as a low and narrow corridor, before suddenly opening to a cavernous stair hall lit from concealed roof lights overhead.
The room is a space unique in Australian residential architecture – grand and austere in its size and sparseness, but inviting and exciting as it leads one upwards through the building. As a counterpoint to this dramatic spatial sequence, the living areas leading from the stair hall are informal and intimate. Bedroom suites occupy the first floor, overlooking the public park to the north. The curves and planes of the façade here act as screens to provide privacy and shade for the occupants.
Spaces are large but not ostentatious. Internal finishes are modest and pared-back: floors are brick-paved, walls are set render, fittings are simple.
On the second floor, sitting and dining rooms are divided by screens and overlook the park. A sky-lit kitchen and study look back into the building, creating views across the stair hall. Spaces are large but not ostentatious. Internal finishes are modest and pared-back: floors are brick-paved, walls are set render, fittings are simple.
“This new home for an art patron challenges ideas about living among art and the associated aspects of public and private entertaining. Externally, the highly resolved sculptural form of the facade appears to acknowledge a developing context, including a forthcoming gallery on the neighbouring site for the same owner. The execution of the facade is a complex association of intricacy and off-form concrete, yet to some degree it is not surprising. On entering the building, however, the visitor’s perception shifts and a series of seamless internal spaces deliver the remarkable. Built to the far boundaries, the house unfolds around a three-storey staircase hall that runs the full length of the site. This breathtaking space is heightened by an ephemeral play of natural light cascading down from the vaulted ceiling. The ground floor is carefully defined as a semipublic space through the inclusion of a linear dining room for sixty-four guests. Above this level, the staircase begins its journey to the private domains of the house. Four bedrooms are accommodated on the first level and the living areas and private kitchen unfold in a sequence of vaulted spaces on the upper level. On first reading the interiors appear notably restrained, yet on close inspection handmade resolution is evident throughout and the level of sophistication in the interior execution is exceptional. The interiors are further heightened by the involvement of a single furniture maker who was commissioned to craft all of the loose furniture for the house. This is a house that expresses a sense of confident completeness by excluding itself from temptations of fashion or statement. Perhaps Indigo Slam’s greatest success can be measured by the owner’s decision to significantly reduce how much of her permanent collection would be hung on the walls after recognizing during construction that the house itself is in fact as much a part of her collection as the art itself. It is an exceptional and rare privilege to engage with architecture at this level.” – Jury citation / National Architecture Awards: Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture
Smart Design Studio:
A piece of sculpture to be lived in, this exciting project fronts newly-built Central Park in Sydney’s Chippendale, creating an inspiring residence for an art collector. Behind a façade of sculpted concrete, serene living spaces and monumental halls create a dynamic interplay of spare interiors in which the main decorative element is light.
The concrete façade of Indigo Slam is alive to the changes wrought by light, shade, sun and cloud, providing the new urban park across the road with a lively backdrop to public life. Approaching from O’Connor Street, a patterned steel screen opens to lead the visitor into a generous coved vestibule. From here, the space compresses to a low and narrow corridor before suddenly opening to a cavernous stair hall lit from concealed roof lights overhead. This room is a space unique in Australian residential architecture – grand and austere in its size and sparseness, but inviting and exciting as it leads one upwards through the building.
As a counterpoint to this dramatic spatial sequence, the living areas leading off it are informal and intimate. Bedroom suites occupy the first floor, overlooking the public park to the north. The curves and planes of the façade here act as screens to provide privacy and shade for the occupants. On the second floor, sitting and dining rooms overlook the park. A sky-lit kitchen and study look back into the building, creating views across the stair hall. To the south, a small garden flat and three car garage address Dick Street.
The brief was for Indigo Slam to last 100 years. Materials are selected to wear and endure and fittings to last, with operable elements mechanically rather than digitally operated. These include oversized vertical timber blinds that turn and retract by means of hanging chains and awning windows operated by geared winders. The brass armatures for these moving parts lend a finely grained detail to the interior and to the steel, glass and concrete of the building façade.
The project aspires to an exemplary level of environmentally sustainable design with natural lighting, cross-ventilation, rainwater harvesting and adherence to passive solar design principles reducing the energy and water load of the building. Geothermal heating and cooling have also been incorporated into the design and solar hot water and photovoltaic cells populate the roof.
Indigo Slam represents a rare opportunity to add a large residence of substantial quality and architectural merit to the diverse neighbourhood of Chippendale, and participate in the reinvigoration this part of Sydney as a place of architectural and cultural interest.
Project name: Indigo Slam
Location: 51-63 O’Connor St, Chippendale, New South Wales 2008, Australia
Coordinates: -33.886170, 151.199618
- Type By Characteristic: Renovation / Expansion / Extension : House, Green & Sustainable House, Luxury House
- Type By Site: City / Town House
- Type By Size: Large House – (more than 650 sqm)
- Type By Materials: Concrete House
Project area: approximately 800 sqm
Construction Period: 2012 – 2016
Completion Year: 2016
Client / Owner / Developer: Judith Neilson
Architects: Smart Design Studio – 632 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
Interior designer: Smart Design Studio
Project Team: William Smart (principal architect); Nicole Leuning, Luke Moloney, James Ho
Project Manager: CPM Consulting
Builder: Total Co-ordination
- Structural engineer: Northrop Consulting Engineers
- Facade engineer: Arup, Advanced Design Innovation
- Geotechnical engineer: Environmental Investigation
- Civil Engineer: Taylor Thomson Whitting
- Mechanical engineer: GeoExchange Australia
- Acoustic consultant: Arup
- Basix: GE Hunt
- Certifier: Building Certifiers Australia
- Civil consultant: Taylor Thomson Whitting
- Electrical consultant: Northrop Consulting Engineers
- Furniture designer: Khai Liew Design
- Hydraulic consultant: Northrop Consulting Engineers
- Landscape consultant: Christopher Owen
- Lighting consultant: Steensen Varming
- Quantity surveyor: WT Partnership
- Surveyor: Stuart de Nett
Text Description: © Courtesy of Smart Design Studio, Australian Institute of Architects Awards
Images: © Smart Design Studio, David Roche, Sharrin Rees