A cowshed built in the late 19th century, located in an inner-city suburb of Sydney, has recently been renovated and transformed into an award-winning modern house.

The Cowshed House, as the project is known, won three 2013 NSW Architecture Awards: the Sustainable Architecture Award, the Residential Architecture Award (Alterations & Additions) and the Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture Commendation.

The house, located in the suburb of Glebe, was designed by Carterwilliamson Architects, a Sydney-based practise with a distinctive vision about architecture.

“Architecture is the construction of ideas represented as sequences of spaces illuminated by natural light. These ideas form the spaces we live in, move through, and feel better for having been in. Good architecture should allow us to feel safe and secure, confident and expressive, quiet and reflective,” the firm said of its guiding principles, which are well represented in the Cowshed House.

The original structure, located on a prime corner site, had previously been adapted into a poorly-designed home featuring two bedrooms, a single bathroom connected to one of the bedrooms and a living area which incorporated the kitchen. Every room in the L-shaped building faced a large courtyard in the northwest corner of the site.

Carterwilliamson Architects director Shaun Carter was delighted with the rare opportunity to remake a house on a corner site in such an old area of the city.

“It seemed like the perfect site, and along with that came clients with a wonderful spirit and desire to push conventional boundaries,” he said.

Cowshed House

The double-height living space has a combination of exposed original and recycled brick walls.

The owners were totally captivated by the original building’s footprint and, though the property came with council-approved plans for a substantial renovation, they chose to preserve the integrity of the unusual existing building while making it more liveaable and better suited to their needs.

“We also loved the sense of protection and privacy from the walled boundary and the suntraps in certain rooms, so it was really important to us to keep the L-shape and just reconfigure some of the spaces,” they said.

The most important elements in the project are the original perimeter brick wall and the new undulating metal-deck roof, designed to mimic the shape of the traditional surrounding buildings. By folding this roof back where it faces the street corner, the architects smartly reduced the impact of the second storey.

A pivoting red-painted timber door opens into the courtyard, which is the heart of the house. Interior and exterior spaces are highly connected by a sliding door system and by the use of polished concrete floors and weathered face brickwork.

Cowshed House

The new undulating metal-deck roof line from the main courtyard.

The southern wing features an open-planned living, dining and kitchen area on the ground level, with the main bedroom and ensuite located overhead on the new mezzanine level. At the back of the main courtyard is a more private eastern wing with two bedrooms/study, the main bathroom and a second courtyard.

The building richly deserved the Sustainable Architecture Award due to the high thermal mass of its brick walls, its dark concrete-slab flooring with underfloor heating for the cooler months, extensive cross-ventilation and north-facing glazed areas, and for the use of recycled and eco-friendly materials.