ZZ Top House / CplusC Architectural Workshop
Text description provided by the architects. In ZZ Top House, it’s hard to tell if you’re inside or out. The topsy-turvy design deliberately confounds perspective by bringing in the outdoors. Natural light pours into the sky-high living spaces through zigzagging louvers and skylights to create a captivating inside world where the home’s beautiful details are the view.
The site – How do you create visual interest inside an unusually long and inward-looking site with zero outlooks bounded by two warehouses? That was the challenge in updating this dual-frontage Victorian terrace house in McMahon’s Point, Sydney. Inspired by two ideas, the geode and the zigzag, architects CplusC designed a soaring yet approachable living space that delights the eye without views to the outside.
A living geode – With no outlook to work with, CplusC’s design for ZZ Top House takes cues from geodes, rocks that contain hollow cavities lined with jagged crystals to create dazzling inner worlds. In the same way, the home opens from an unassuming exterior to reveal a fascinating space inside. Bold 3.8-meter-high louvers and skylights admit light and the outdoors to this secret world, creating a beautiful symphony of light and shade nuanced by season and time of day. An accordion rhythm compresses and connects the vast spaces, wittily expressed by a recurring zigzag motif explored in the floors, the louvered windows, and even the kitchen bench.
The design – CplusC’s design for the four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home retained the entire original terrace house, transforming most of the ground floor into a massive living area flowing from inside to out. Moving the entrance from the front façade to the side of the building gives instant access to the rear living spaces for an arresting first impression. At entry level are the kitchen and dining rooms, with lofty louvers, skylights, and vertical lighting cavities emphasizing the big airy spaces. One level down, the living room transitions to the undercover outside living space and garden. A firepit and custom benches are the perfect places to enjoy an illuminated mural projected onto the massive warehouse wall by night.
Turning the house inside out – For guests entering, there’s always a double-take: are they inside or outside? The design dissolves the feeling of being indoors with ample use of glass inviting the outside in. The effect is heightened by the external elements that look into this private world, with the original arches, rear terrace house balcony, and exterior terrace walls creating abundant visual interest inside. These outdoor reference points conspire with the extraordinary volume of the living spaces to create a light and open feeling. It’s like living outside.
Sustainable – CplusC designed and built ZZ Top House with the integrated sustainability features the firm is known for. The house has a 10kWhr solar system supported by Tesla battery storage and uses cross-ventilation, thermal mass optimization, insulation, and passive solar strategies to achieve near-zero electricity bills throughout the year. Recycled floorboards, dry-pressed bricks, and restoring rather than replacing heritage features reduced the project’s embodied energy while creating an endlessly interesting interior.