This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

The Extraordinary Exoskeleton House

Architecture

This afternoon, Takt Architects takes us through their bold renovation of a humble bungalow.

Just south of Sydney, in former timber milling country, this striking and sustainable update is imbued with rich history and connection to place.

10th September, 2019

The Exoskeleton House. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

A renovation project by Takt Architects. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

The wooden bungalow was built in the 1950s. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

Today it has been enveloped in a steel architectural shelter. Photo – Tim Shaw.

Adaptation and reuse of materials were paramount to the project. Photo – Tim Shaw.

In summer, cooling easterly breezes are shepherded into the home with high open ceilings. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

The residence is bright and airy. Photo – Shantanu Starick.

This home began life as a 1950s brick bungalow in Thirroul. The town sits below the Illawarra escarpment south of Sydney in NSW, where many small timber cottage and brick bungalows were constructed to accommodate timber cutters, coal miners, and steel-workers. Brent Dunn and Katharina Hendel of Takt Architects explain ‘the imposing landscape was dotted with small timber cottages and bungalows built from surplus materials, from both the steel mills further south and local brick works.’

The duo embarked on this renovation, inspired by a desire to ‘set an example for sustainable development that keeps place with changing ways of living’, while remaining sensitive to its location, and the local qualities of place. The architects highlight how their approach of adaptive re-use aimed to sensitively respect the humble cottages and bungalows in the area (which is undergoing massive population changes), while ensuring the home is designed to meet the needs of today’s inhabitants.

Brent and Katharina describe the design process as one of addition, where they introduce ‘only the missing pieces in the puzzle’ and nothing more. A steel exoskeleton provides an architectural shelter, under which a new living pavilion is introduced using raw steel, recycled timber and site-formed concrete. This additional family space opens up the home, and connects to the garden – resulting in an incredibly striking architectural synthesis of a 1950s home, protected within a 2010s insect-like frame!

The renovation is also informed by principles of sustainability, in both adapting rather than demolishing and rebuilding, and in employing thermal design principles. In summer, the cooling north-easterly breezes are shepherded into the home via the sloping roof and internal high open ceilings. In winter, the architects describe a cosy scene where ‘sun-drenched concrete floors and the fireplace transform the experience of cold weather and early sunsets.’ The architects also highlight that the decision to adapt the existing house, rather than build from scratch, meant financial savings – and as a result, the clients were able to focus more on quality craftsmanship.

Brent and Katharina emphasise the role of their client in trusting them throughout this ambitious project, as well as the creative and respectful team of makers they enlisted to bring the exoskeleton to life!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Rugged Coastal Home By Kennedy Nolan

A pinwheel-shaped layout shelters this coastal home in Victoria from the harsh elements.
Amelia Barnes

Travel

Austinmer And Thirroul With Dominique Brammah

The interior designer gives us tour of the stunning coastline and some of her favourite spots in the northern Illawarra region of New South
Dominique Brammah

Architecture

A Forever Home That Celebrates The Past

Renovating for longevity in Rose Bay, Sydney with Ricci Bloch Architecture and Interiors.
Miriam McGarry

This Week

TDF Collect

'I Been Born There' By Maggie Green At TDF Collect – A Virtual Walkthrough!

In lieu of being able to open this spectacular exhibition, we made a video with SIRAP to bring Maggie Green's debut solo show to you!

Times Like These

Times Like These... With Artist And Designer Beci Orpin

Feeling weird? Us too. Welcome to our new weekly series to help us combat all the strange feels by sharing the experiences of creatives we k...

Modernist Australia

Terrazzo Marble Floors + Indoor Garden Oasis = A Modernist Masterpiece (On The Market)!

An inspiring example of great ingenuity from the early '60s that has to be seen to be believed!
Patricia Callan

Architecture

When Two Homes Become One

Two adjacent houses in Fitzroy North become one very unique family home, by Austin Maynard Architects.

Family

Artist Dawn Tan On Her Scary Start To Motherhood + Keeping Calm In The Time Of Corona

The much-loved Melbourne artist speaks candidly about one of the most challenging times ever for her little family, and her new online art r...
Ashe Davenport

Gardens

How To Start A Productive Garden TODAY!

We turn to three seasoned experts for tips on how to get started, what to plant in small spaces and how long it will take to start seeing re...

Homes

An Original Mid-Century Queenslander With Millennium Modern Flair

This Queenslander was built in 1964 and designed by acclaimed modernist architect John Dalton. Now, it is Bronwyn Labagnara's family home in...
Jo Hoban

Food

7 Days Of Home-Cooked Meal Ideas from Julia Busuttil Nishimura

The queen of comfort food gives us a menu of nourishing meal ideas, plus a mega shopping list for all of it!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Architecture

Elevating A Classic Queenslander, In More Ways Than One!

In Teneriffe House, Vokes and Peters put their own spin on a classic 'raise and build under' Brisbane renovation.

News

Cream Town Is Making It Easy (And Affordable!) To Support Local Artists From Home

Two Victorian artists launch an online affordable art dealership for artists who have lost their income to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dream Job

The General Manager Of Raes On Wategos Scored Her Dream Job, In Everyone's Dream Location

Francesca Webster's job at one of Australia's most iconic hotels is around-the-clock 365 days a year, and she loves every second of it!
Sasha Gattermayr
2:34

Home Goals

Sophie & Dale Vine Share Their Home Renovation In Geelong

Sophie and Dale Vine talk us through their slow and steady DIY home renovation, in partnership with Bendigo Bank.

Studio Visit

A Studio Tour with Simone Haag and Irina Rybakov of Pépite, at 'Le Space'

A studio visit with super stylist Simone Haag at 'Le Space', a new David Flack-designed studio space in Collingwood!
Sasha Gattermayr

Gardens

Five Garden Designs You Didn't Get To See At The Melbourne International Flower + Garden Show

An overview of the key MIFGS exhibitors, who were due to participate at Australia's biggest garden fair this week.
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

Three Amazing Homes, As Seen At Palm Springs' Modernism Week

Take a virtual tour of three, iconic mid-century houses we visited at Palm Springs Modernism Week, 2020.

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Rugged Coastal Home By Kennedy Nolan

A pinwheel-shaped layout shelters this coastal home from the elements.
Amelia Barnes

Travel

Austinmer And Thirroul With Dominique Brammah

The interior designer gives us tour of the stunning coastline and some of her favourite spots in the northern Illawarra region of New South
Dominique Brammah

Architecture

A Forever Home That Celebrates The Past

Renovating for longevity in Rose Bay, Sydney with Ricci Bloch Architecture and Interiors.
Miriam McGarry