A Dramatic House In Sydney Carved Out Of Sandstone

Taking a ‘humanist approach to architecture and design’, Luigi Rosselli Architects aren’t too concerned by awards and accolades (though this hasn’t stopped them collecting their fair share). The Sydney-based firm is focussed on creating truly breathtaking responses to the needs of their clients, with a distinctly dramatic flair.

Built into the cliff-face in Sydney, with stunning Middle Harbour views, the Books House certainly brings this characteristic showmanship!

Sally Tabart

The impressive Books House by Luigi Rosselli architects in Sydney’s Mosman. Photo – Justin Alexander.

House sketches by Luigi Rosselli Architects. Sketches – Luigi Rosselli Architects.

The sandstone walls of the ground floor taper at the top to take loads of the concrete slabs. Photo – Justin Alexander.

A Frangipani tree sat at the top of the cliff, and a stonemason cut a dramatic stair with a stone chainsaw to reconnect the top of the garden to the living room level terrace. Photo – Justin Alexander.

Photo – Edward Birch.

Books House sketch. Sketch – Luigi Rosselli Architects.

Books House sketch. Sketch – Luigi Rosselli Architects.

The home owner’s office view. Photo – Justin Alexander.

A moveable bookcase in the study. Photo – Prue Ruscoe.

Books House sketch. Sketch – Luigi Rosselli Architects.

On the other side of the stair and the skylight shaft: the living room with a fireplace and collection of furniture around a Robyn Cosgrove silk rug. Photo – Prue Ruscoe.

The brass stair is also a subtle divider between the dining and living room and screens off the kitchen.  In the background a Poliform Clipper table designed by Carlo Columbo and Catellani + Smith Lederam light, both supplied by Hub Furniture. Photo – Justin Alexander.

The dining room and the kitchen are spacious enough to have another sitting room facing the view and the balcony. Photo – Prue Ruscoe.

Books House sketch. Sketch – Luigi Rosselli Architects.

Balanced textures in the living room. Photo – Prue Ruscoe.

The off-form concrete ring beam is also the base for the gas fireplace. Photo – Prue Ruscoe.

Books House sketch. Sketch – Luigi Rosselli Architects.

An elliptical stairwell. Photo – Prue Ruscoe.

A sandstone-lined tunnel. Photo – Justin Alexander.

The ‘ layers’ are reminiscent of a stack of books, plied up on a ‘table’ of sandstone. Photo – Justin Alexander.

The concrete structure of each floor is oriented differently to suit the views, and also maximise the distances from the neighbours on each side. Photo – Justin Alexander.

Sally Tabart
27th of July 2018

The clients initially approached Luigi Rosselli after falling for another of his Sydney residential projects, Six Degrees of Separation. Upon first meeting, they stacked three books on top of each other on a table and proclaimed, ‘we want the Books House’ – a rather unorthodox brief! Along with the clients’ suggested reading of The Importance of Living by Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang, this simple stack of books became the key inspiration for the project.

A steep sandstone slope with unencumbered views of the sparkling Middle Harbour was to be the foundation of the new build, the design ‘anchored in the idea of a “layered building” that referenced the sandstone ledges and outcrops that dominated the steep site,’ explains project architect Kristina Sahlestrom.

The rocky cliff face was embraced by Kristina, Luigi and their team, incorporating the sandstone so characteristic of this part of Sydney into the build, as well as making it part of the garden. The sandstone was excavated and quarried, then ‘painstakingly chiselled into shape by the stonemason.’ In line with Luigi Rosselli Architect’s commitment to sustainable design, all the sandstone cladding was repurposed from the site itself.

The orientation of each scissored terrace floor is designed to optimise all views, with the kitchen and living spaces located towards the water. Internally, the concrete walls timber detailing reflects a similar relationship to the natural environment, and a contrast to the organic materials accentuated by brass detailing. An elliptical staircase connects each level, whilst an additional floating stair bordered by a forest of brass poles is a showstopping centrepiece – reaching all the way to the rooftop!

In TRUE mysterious mansion style, the lower level of the home features a moveable bookcase pivots to reveal the client’s hidden study, with views overlooking the pool, resplendent with its own stunning sandstone cliff-face. 

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