From the architect:
Located in the heart of Surry Hills, Little Albion Guest House faces two streets – Albion Street and Little Albion Street – the former being around 5m taller than the latter. It occupies a tiny North-South oriented urban infill site in a densely built urban environment, and therefore deprived of natural light. It is sandwiched between two heritage buildings – a former Presbyterian church to the west, which is now a trendy commercial office building, and a former school hall to the east, which is now an apartment building in mixed use. All three buildings are part of a heritage conservation area.
The design begins with the existing heritage building. We have continued the traditional use of the building from a convent to a guesthouse and now it has been carefully redesigned into a luxurious guesthouse. We have introduced new internal plans and room layouts while retaining and amplifying the unique heritage features of the existing building and restoring its lost features. This has resulted in new character-themed rooms that eschew stereotypical interiors – they feature a cool mix of historical and contemporary details that are true to their own DNA and that of Surry Hills.
The design resembles that of a village and includes a series of extensions north, south, west and up from the existing heritage building. Along with the secondary elements like retractable metal boxes, steel Juliette balconies, aluminum or steel doors and windows and steel palisade fences, they are expressed in different materials and colors, and are presented as a sequence. They are also well coordinated to create a good sense of contrast and balance with complementary opposites.
The design of the new extensions takes the existing neighboring facilities very, very seriously, particularly with regard to natural sunlight. The new northern extension and the new western extension retain setbacks similar to those of the existing heritage building. A green roof has also been introduced above the new northern extension to regain the green perspective that was once appreciated by some of the top floor apartments next door.
Overall, the architecture and interiors evoke memories. Bricks were the main building block for many older buildings in the area thanks to its proximity to Brickfield Hill – an area south of early Sydney that was once used for brick making since the beginning of colonization. The industrial-looking glass elevator tower is inspired by the area’s industrial past in the 1850s.
The interiors are reminiscent of the different eras that the existing heritage building went through with its art-deco, Mid-Century and retro-inspired interiors. The portraits in the stairwell of the existing heritage building are also reminiscent of once important figures in the history of the region.
Little Albion Guest House is truly a microcosm of the eclectic Surry Hills. It is an integral part of its environment, not a stand-alone building. It was designed from the outside to the inside and from the inside to the outside. Aesthetics consists of engaging memory, creating memory and inducing memory.