Excerpt: Symmons Plains is an architectural project designed by Cumulus Studio in Australia. Understanding the significant heritage value of their new property, their clients approached the project with a clear vision; firstly to restore the property to its former glory, then introduce new functional, contemporary elements that would remain sensitive to the original architecture.
[Text as submitted by architect] The Symmons Plains homestead was first established in 1839 by John Arndell Youl, a Tasmanian colonist known for introducing brown trout to Australia . Seven generations of the Youl family lived and farmed the expansive property until it was sold to our client in 2011. Over the years, the Youl family made a number of additions to the property, most notably the tennis court, airstrip and world-class raceway. The homestead comprises of a large central living quarters, flanked by two symmetrical brick outbuildings – both of which were in an advancing state of disrepair before Cumulus works began.
Understanding the significant heritage value of their new property, our clients approached the project with a clear vision; firstly to restore the property to its former glory, then introduce new functional, contemporary elements that would remain sensitive to the original architecture. While simple, in theory, Cumulus Studio were the fourth architect our client had approached to assist with this vision. Initial restoration works began with the reinstatement of decaying slaked lime mortar and removal of poor cement repairs. Two specialist restoration stonemasons were contracted to assist with the extensive exterior works, utilising traditional lime mortar preparation techniques which can take up to 12 months to mature on site. Further restoration works involved removing inconsistent alterations, such as the rear 1960s laundry and loggia, creating a clean, honest, canvas from which to replan.
As is typical of early Georgian homes, the original homestead was quite stripped back, austere and utilitarian, free from the detail and decoration of later Tasmanian heritage properties. The new lightweight steel and glass insertions reflect this simplicity in form and proportion, while their transparency and reduced height allow the heritage structures to take prominence in the design. The new intervention, essentially a long extruded tube, connects both outbuildings and the rear wing of the homestead into one single consolidated structure. This connection activates the entire cluster of buildings, transforming forgotten spaces used intermittently for storage, suppliesand farm vehicles into active, social additions to the family home.
Tight, poorly oriented spaces, have been replaced with open, contemplative alternatives within the central living quarters and granary. The south-facing servant kitchen has been redefined as a double-height gallery space, retaining the existing first-floor joists to reflect the original configuration of the interior space. Finally, the central areas of gathering (kitchen/living/dining) have been relocated within the light-filled new insertions, with clear transitions to the extended outdoor social areas in the terrace, pool and rear courtyards.
Steel has been used to represent the transition between old and new. Beginning with the clear separation in the steel (new) and stone (old) buildings seen from the exterior, the user begins to create an association between what is ‘steel’ and what is ‘new’. This is reflected beyond the steel-framed insertions – from the floating staircases and balustrades down to subtle thresholds, shelving and benchtop details within the central homestead.