The Shed

DATE: 2010
LOCATION: Randwick, New South Wales, AU
OLD USE: Coach building structure, Motorcycle repair shop, Secondhand washing machine warehouse, Builder’s workshop, Artist studio
NEW USE: Private residence


Tucked away at the end of a lane in the Sydney suburb of Randwick, close to The Spot and in walking distance to Coogee beach, is a 74 square-meter (under 800 square feet) simple brick industrial structure built in 1890 by two Irish blacksmiths (brothers) to house their coach building business. Over the past 120 years the building has also operated as a motorcycle repair shop, secondhand washing machine warehouse, a builder’s workshop, and more recently a studio for local artists.[1]


Architecture firm, Richard Peters Associates, is located in Sydney, NSW, Australia.


The project responds to the city’s growing need for adaptive reuse, meets the constraints of a limited budget and addresses the long-term needs of owners who wanted a home that would reduce the use of traditional (costly/polluting) energy requirements – all without compromising the level of amenity or comfort, in fact improving it, while maximizing privacy and renewing/greening a forgotten lane way.

The building has a north-facing roof that has been set up with solar panels to harness the sun, there are operable doors and windows from north to south to allow good cross ventilation so there is no need for air conditioning, while the thermal mass of the concrete floor holds the winter sun to warm the building in the colder months. Along the southern wall a full bank of kitchen/storage on ground level, and robe/storage on the first level, has been installed as an effective insulator from the adjoining lane way.

Influenced by the city of Tokyo where land is scarce and buildings are designed to fit onto very small parcels, the owners set out to design a new building within the fabric of the old factory that responded to the natural attributes of the building – Freestanding and north facing on its longest side, a double-height open interior, a rear lane, and the opportunity for vistas over established neighborhood gardens.

Despite the size of the building the new interior has one bedroom, a study (or alternatively two bedrooms), two bathrooms, kitchen, dining, living area, storage, two courtyards and garden, an upstairs deck and clothes drying area, and internally maintains the double height volume of the original building. A small parking area has been created to one side of the building. The building shows how much you can achieve in a very small envelope without compromising space.

The house is divided into public and private zones over two levels. Entry is via the original door opening, once a roller shutter and now a four meter wide (about 13 feet) zinc sliding door that both connects to and completely shuts off the lane way as required. The entry threshold provides a mediating space to the living area and is the joinery spine and thermal buffer on the southern side, running its 12 meter length (about 40 feet) from living, dining and kitchen to study. It contains the kitchen, general household storage, laundry, storage for the study and robes for the bedroom upstairs.

The main living area maintains the building’s original six meter high (about 20 feet) interior volume. The ceiling is lined with corrugated steel from the old roof, and a second roof was laid over the top with insulation placed in between. Off the dining area, a new courtyard garden was established where the old bathroom once was, opening up the northern wall and allowing light in. In summer the sun is controlled by the height of the courtyard wall, and in winter the sun creeps further into the building, warming up the slab. At night the external lights in the courtyard bounce light back into the building to create a very simple and effective way of reducing the energy needed to illuminate the interior.

An integrated system of floor to ceiling sash windows and sliding doors is used in the bedroom on the upper level and the study on ground level, allowing each room to open up to the elements. In the bathrooms the large sliding doors allow natural ventilation and on the upper level connects you to the neighbouring gardens while you shower. The very simple bathroom plan includes plenty of storage (concealed) and uses materials that are easy to clean.

The private zone of the house is contained in the building’s new two level ‘insertion.’ A steel mesh staircase constructed offsite and craned into the building connects the levels without wasting space or blocking out light. The same steel mesh is used on the upper outdoor deck to allow light and air to flow through the levels. At this end of the site, the northern roof is pealed back to allow light deep into the building and creates an external courtyard area on the ground level and an outdoor deck above. Here the perimeter wall is built up to provide further privacy for both the neighbours and the owners.

While so much now happens within the siteʼs small footprint, from the lane way the industrial building remains a secret little space, contained and private and not revealing its new life connected to the sky, the seasons, the breezes and the surrounding gardens.[2]

[1]Richard Peters
[2]Richard Peters

Images courtesy of Justin Alexander.