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A Striking Sydney Home Designed For Book-Lovers

Architecture

It’s surely the dream of many to live in a house surrounded by books. For a retired literature academic in Sydney, this is no fantasy. It’s her reality!

The client engaged Sibling Architecture to design a two-storey addition to her Federation era cottage in Tempe, that would accomodate her impressive library. Enter this eye-catching contemporary home extension inspired by the Maison de Verre in Paris, where every design decision has been made with reading in mind!

16th June, 2020

A perfectly compact kitchen and dining room takes advantage of the lofty ceilings. Photo – Katherine Lu.

Southern light filters in. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The central bookshelf begins. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The back fo the house opens like a book. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The mezzanine level overlooking the kitchen is a solitary reading nook positioned next to an original cottage window. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The central bookshelf stretches across the split levels, connected by the steel staircase. Photo – Katherine Lu.

A cross section of the extension. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The indirect, filtered light. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The top floor reading nook has been fashioned from the same timber used to make the shelving. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The south-facing reading nook on the top floor. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The Glassbook House was a finalist in the Residential Interiors category of the Dulux Colour Awards 2020! Photo – Katherine Lu.

The vibrant bathroom echoes the electric blue tones throughout the house! Photo – Katherine Lu.

The rear facade is made from stacked glass blocks. Economical, sound-proof and perfect for filtering reading light! Photo – Katherine Lu.

The floor-to-ceiling glass doors act like pages, opening the house to a reader. It’s like cracking the spine on a new book! Photo – Katherine Lu.

The modest Federation facade gives no indication of what lies beyond. Photo – Katherine Lu.

Sasha Gattermayr
Tuesday 16th June 2020

‘We wanted the activity of reading to proliferate the living spaces of the home.’ – Qianyi Lim, architect

Sibling Architecture has made a name for themselves with their innovative, conceptual and often playful approach to architecture. Their projects often go beyond aesthetic design, demonstrating a social and cultural conscience, and the Glassbook House in the Sydney suburb of Tempe is no different.

Created for a retired literature academic, the two-storey addition to a Federation era cottage had just one requirement: to be a private oasis for the client and her books. ‘Our vision was to create a light-filled sanctuary for reading,’ explains architect, Qianyi Lim. ‘We wanted the activity of reading to proliferate the living spaces of the home.’

With this in mind, Qianyi took the central organising principle of the client’s life (books) and created a floorplan that revolved around them. The social spaces are choreographed around the double height bookshelf, which sits at the centre of the house and stretches to the ceiling, cutting across the three split levels of the home.

The result is an inversion of traditional open-plan living, using mezzanine levels, open stairwells and steel mesh flooring to connect the spaces vertically. Qianyi credits Japanese residential architecture with the inspiration for this innovation, citing the way it utilises split levels to divide spaces as a key influence. These staggered platforms house multiple reading nooks, which are designed to take advantage of different aspects that maximise natural sunlight throughout the day.

The south-facing rear facade of the home is built entirely of stacked glass blocks which – as well as providing some serious wow factor – filters soft, indirect reading light through each level. Sturdy laminated timber veneer boards were selected to create continuous shelving, which stretches up two storeys along the central wall. On the top floor, the shelves lever out parallel to the floor to form a reading platform perfect for nestling next to the window. The result is a residence that unfolds itself as you progress through it, inviting you to take a seat at any of the reading nooks, take a tome from the shelf and settle down for the afternoon.

Not only does the striking glass block facade provide perfectly filtered light and a distinctive exterior feature, it creates an acoustic buffer between the domestic space and the flight path overhead. The block is situated just next to Sydney airport, so this added layer of protection was an absolute necessity in creating a library-like sanctuary.

Single pane glass doors act like pages, opening the kitchen and dining space out onto the paved back yard. Opening these floor-to-ceiling doors is a little like cracking the spine of a new novel. This house is an open book!

See more projects from Sibling Architecture here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.