A home nestled tactfully in Highgate Hill has received national recognition at the 2017 National Architecture Awards.

Dornoch Terrace House is a modern treatment of the Queensland home from the local team at James Russell Architects.

It is a house designed to accommodate Brisbane’s blistering summer, the unique atmosphere of the 4101, and the family of six who occupy it.

James Russell, who created this original home for his young family, said the house was a process of constant experimentation not only in design, but in construction.

“We renovated for over five years while working on client projects; it became a testing ground for new ideas and construction techniques,” he said.

The narrow block of land came with its share of challenges, including the dramatic drop on the north side of the lot. James and his team engineered a plan that would allow two storeys of the home to tuck into the ridge to maximise privacy, leaving only the home office exposed.

Stairs connect the screened mid-level courtyard — perfect for entertaining or unwinding by the warm light of a fire — to the flexible living and eating spaces. The ground level is an intimate garden with a brick courtyard and bathhouse, surrounded by mature fig trees that frame the panoramic views of Mount Coot-tha.

The design truly utilises the home’s 160 square metres. “The house comfortably accommodates parents and children, has a flat for grandparents, guests or carers,” James said. The two courtyards help to engineer a circulation between internal and external spaces. “It places one in conversation with place, ground, sky, seasons, smells and sounds, making a comfortable transition over three levels, like movement through a village,” James said.

Since the beginning of its five-year transformation, Dornoch Terrace House has continued to play an integral part in the West End community. “The house was close to a squat when purchased, but one with a long history of transient musicians and graffiti artists living there,” James said. “The walls were covered in works by well-known artists such as Sofles and Lister.”

The local artists said their farewells to their collective home by throwing a massive house party, which unfortunately damaged most of the artwork. Determined to maintain the house’s rich history, James invited Sofles to paint a new work for the renovation. “West End is a small community, so through contacts Sofles was convinced to come back to create a work which now sits within the new three-storey void connecting ground through sleeping to sky,” James said. “The void is a space with the character of a small Asian courtyard, linking the ground to mid-levels, to the top floor and sky above. This is the social hub of the house; a place for conversation between levels.”

Much of the house’s existing materials were also maintained to minimise the environmental impacts of the project. James said, “Dornoch Terrace has a small footprint, modest so as not to waste beautiful and durable building materials … original timbers restored and new ironbark and brick making a home for 100 years plus.”

Dornoch Terrace is not only a house built to last, but one built to adapt and grow with its occupants, and community.

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