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Side by side – mirror townhouses by MPRDG

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MPDRG townhouses maximise natural light and views

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Steep sites and great views go hand in hand. But there are always challenges in building on such blocks, and these are compounded when a site requires adjoining townhouses with large floorplates.

For this Sydney project, an extensive rock excavation provided room for two adjoining three-level houses. Because the site slopes down at the rear, the full size of each house is not obvious from the street, and the entry is just above the mid-level.

Architect Kevin Ng of MPRDG says the symmetrical entries feature steel canopies in an inverted L shape, with timber battens overhead. These bring a welcoming intimacy to the entry, and echo the architectural structure of the large overhangs at the rear of each house – albeit on a much smaller scale.

"The architecture is more modernist than the home originally envisioned by the owners, but it allows for a very generous, clean-lined interior," Ng says. "And because low maintenance was a requirement, the timber accents have been kept to a minimum. They include fixed batten screens that provide privacy to the front rooms on the top floor. To create a point of difference, one screen has vertical battens, and the other, horizontal."

Steps lead up to the spacious living area on the top floor, which was designed to maximise the harbour and city views to the northwest.

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"Light can be a problem in townhouses with a long shared wall that has no windows," says the architect. "To compensate for this, we added long skylights to each townhouse, along the main axis. These allow light to penetrate both the living space and the stairwell – right down to the basement level. Glass balustradings also ensure the light filters down."

The design team also positioned the side windows with privacy in mind, choosing high narrow windows above the main seating area.

Built-in cabinetry with a white oak veneer continues the sleek, modernist lines of the architecture. The large multipurpose cabinet, along the shared wall of each townhouse, incorporates an entertainment centre with a cantilevered shelf, a contemporary gas fireplace, display shelving, storage and air conditioning units.

"We needed to keep the ceiling as high as possible to maintain the generous proportions of the living area," says Ng. "So we have avoided using space above the ceiling for air conditioning plant. As well as the unit in the cabinet, there is an air conditioning unit in a specially lowered ceiling in the guest toilet."

White oak veneer also features on the tall cabinets in the kitchen, where it helps to visually warm the space – the rest of the cabinetry is in high-gloss white lacquer. This is teamed with white CaesarStone benchtops. A long, low window doubles as the splashback.

"We often like to use windows in this way," says Ng. "They allow natural light to flood the work area and also provide ventilation where you need it most."

Four bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms, are accommodated on the middle level, along with garaging. The lower level features a communications room housing the smart house electronics, a games room, laundry and large informal living area that opens out to a terrace with a fully equipped outdoor kitchen, and a landscaped yard with a pool.

Cantilevered concrete roof sections add a touch of drama to the rear elevation.

"The balconies would have been very exposed without the overhang, and would hardly have been used," says Ng. "And the absence of a column on the outer edge gives them a much more dynamic form."

To counter the lack of exterior columns, structural columns are concealed within the window and door joinery.

First published date: 11 May 2012

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Credit List

Architect Kevin Ng, Luke Durack, Brian Meyerson, Louise O'Brien, MPRDG (Sydney)
Builder Horizon Habitats
Kitchen manufacturer MSA Prestige Woodcraft
Pool builder Horizon Habitats; Wright Pools
Roofing Wolfin Waterproofing
Tiling Marble and travertine from STS Stone
Lighitng Inlite
Doors and windows AJ Aluminium
Door and window hardware Locksmiths Warehouse
Blinds Homelife
Fireplace Real Flame
Kitchen cabinetry Lacquered
Benchtops CaesarStone
Taps Methven from Harvey Norman
Kitchen appliances Miele, available from Kitchen Things