An Irish-named house with a design based on temples in Cambodia has won the 2013 National Award for Residential Architecture in the housing category.

Dubbed Tír na nÓg, which translates to “land of youth,” was designed by Australian firm Drew Heath Architects. The home was also named the unanimous winner of the Wilkinson Award for Residential Architecture at the 2013 Australian Institute of Architects’ NSW Architecture Awards, and the 2013 Houses Awards in the Alteration and Addition under 200 square metres category.

After a trip to Cambodia, architect and builder Drew Heath said he was inspired to create this house in the Sydney suburb of McMahon’s Point by the ancient temples at Angkor Wat. With the garden and house both boasting thick foliage to create the feeling of being in the jungle, the property seems to disappear into the greenery like an ancient city.

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View from the street – Tír na nÓg house designed by Drew Heath Architects.

“[Heath] was so inspired, he attempted to create the sublime in his own home, layering building and landscape in a tight urban setting. He set out to achieve something very ambitious, and we think he’s succeeded,” said NSW AIA jury chair Sam Crawford.

The home is located on a quiet street on a site that originally housed a circa-1900s worker’s cottage.

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The use of natural light, different levels and gardens create a playful and engaging environment.

“It’s a community house in that it presents greenery to the suburb, but I also wanted to remove myself from the suburb,” Heath said. “I want to live within the suburb in the little village, but I don’t necessarily want to see the things that go on outside it. I don’t mind hearing it and you hear the hum of the city and the traffic going by, but I actually wanted to live in a place where I felt I had complete control of the aesthetic and the materials and so I have used the landscape around us, be it as fencing or a green back-drop, so I see no other architecture.”

The house includes a pavilion featuring bedrooms and sleeping areas for 10 to 12 people and is connected through a central garden to the new open-plan summer pavilion, which was formerly the old cottage’s backyard. The new building includes a large kitchen with a a 20-seat wooden table which can extend into the central garden, and a reading room.

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The central garden features an outdoor summer bathroom.

The kitchen is the heart of the house, connected to the exterior space through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that can be opened to turn the area into a larger living room/garden space.

“There is no architectural façade there, there’s no grand architectural statement, there is just a gift of things growing, which is probably better than an architectural façade. The bamboo that surrounds the house is a fast growing screen and wall, it becomes so dense it just becomes the fence and the barrier, so over time bamboo is impenetrable. Why make a fence when you can grow a fence,” the architect said.

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The living area is centred around the fireplace.

The house has a “winter bathroom” inside the house and a “summer bathroom” located in the central garden. The outdoor “summer” bathroom is open on two sides to bamboo shoots and the surrounding landscape. The shower is beneath an open skylight.

During the cold season, the family uses the winter bathroom, a narrow but very functional room on the side of the old house which is only 80 centimetres wide and about four metres long.

“Tír na nÓg is a melding of sophistication and experimentation that challenges the traditions of inner-city living by replacing security and privacy with openness and spaces for sociability,” the award jury said.