2012 Sydney Design Awards

Key Dates

Image Credit : Photographed by Peter Bennetts



Project Overview

The Lavender Bay Boatshed consists of two 3 storey boatsheds that abut one another at the north-western edge of the bay. Built in the 19th century, they are the last remaining timber structures from the era in this part of Sydney Harbour. They have been pain-stakingly restored and converted into a mix of commercial and residential units in the northern building, and a 3 storey residential apartment in the southern building. The design combines contemporary architectural detailing with an inate respect for the spatial and material character of the historic structure.

The apartment contains bedrooms on the lower ground floor, where the harbour extends under a glazed floor in the main bedroom, with living spaces on the upper 2 storeys. It is entered mid-level on the landward side via a steep and winding path that weaves its way down from the street through a park.

Two large skylights have been inserted in the roof. Conceived as a series of exquisite glazed insertions in the body of the building, they open up views of the different angles and forms of the original boat shed, frame views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Project Commissioner

Lavender Bay Boatshed Partnership

Project Creator

Stephen Collier Architects


Architect - Stephen Collier
Collaborators - Justin Holly, Jordan McIlroy, Christen Meli, David Janson, Andrew Southwood-Jones
Heritage Architect - Ruth Daniel
Structural Engineer - Mott MacDonald
Planning Consultant - GSA Planning
Fire Consultant - GN Consulting
Builder - Building Partners Pty Ltd
Quantity Surveyor - Washington Brown Quantity Surveyors
Electrical - Foster Electrical Services
Plumbing - Chris Schultz Plumbing
Steel fabricator - C-Mac Industries Pty Ltd
Landscaping - Imperial Gardens Pty Ltd
Joiner - Hammercraft Joinery Pty Ltd
Mechanical Services - Archer Air Conditioning Pty Ltd

Project Brief

The design harnesses unique quality of light in Sydney Harbour. Light is drawn deep into the plan through the two large incisions in the roof, and into the bathrooms at ground level through the full height atrium, where it is reflected off carefully chosen materials – glass tiles in the bathrooms, polished concrete floor, the copper bath - and the water in the bay outside.

The desire to reflect the existing roof structure as an internal volume led to locating the bedrooms at ground level and creating a double height living space at first floor level. Exposing existing timbers and original corrugated roof linings tells of the building’s origins. Combining this with the new timber linings – evoking childhood memories of being beneath an upturned boat – evokes the maritime heritage, not just of the building, but of the city itself.

While the bedrooms relate to the building’s shoreline location, upstairs, a large incision in the existing roof looks to the city skyline, framing a view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House beyond on the opposite shore.

Project Innovation / Need

The design brings a refreshing approach to the treatment of heritage buildings within the context of a renovation. While the decision to leave the existing timbers and roof linings exposed respects the building's past, the new insertions and layout look to the future and the building's new role as a contemporary family home. Decisions regarding layout and insertions into existing building fabric were driven by the unique location on the shoreline of Sydney Harbour. This stark contrast between old and new challenges existing orthodoxies in heritage design.

The combination of carefully chosen materials with the water and light in the Harbour produces a sensuous experience. A luminous cornflower yellow polished concrete floor extends throughout the ground level. Water from the bay extends under the floor of the main bedroom, and through a section of glazed floor produces a shimmering reflection on the bedroom wall. In the bathrooms, light is reflected of the textured glass tiles, supplied by Laboratorio Morseletto, and mirrored walls. Custom designed and built basins from bronze and limestone, and a polished copper bath all add to the combination of colours and play of light.

Design Challenge

The nature of the existing building presented a unique set of challenges both in terms of heritage considerations and construction processes. The restoration was carried out in close coordination with the builder. The design evolved throughout the duration of the works and the result was that the documentation and construction processes took place side by side.

The alterations to the building’s interior over a period of many years meant that it was only when the building was stripped back to its original elements that we could understand the detailing and construction requirements. The extent to which the building’s structure had distorted over the years also meant that no two details were the same. The result was a drawn out and time consuming process, but one that ensured the highest standards of detailing and construction.

Likewise, the DA approvals took place in conjunction with design, documentation and building work. The building’s heritage status meant strict conditions on what we could or couldn’t do and we had to seek a number of approvals throughout the course of the project. The interventions we have made both respect and reflect the building’s maritime history.


Viewing the boatshed as an important part of Sydney's maritime heritage, we have made an intervention that will hopefully extend the life of the building for another 150 years.

Both natural cooling and ventilation is aided by the full height atrium that connects all of the main spaces in the building. Masonry walls and the new concrete slab on the lower level (close to the water) place the thermal mass internally while concealing the new elements behind the existing timber exterior. In addition to this all windows and doors have been replaced with low-E, double-glazed units. while on the roof photovoltaic panels help generate electricity and water heating.

This award recognises the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project must be constructed.
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