In March - 'At Home' Visits Castlecrag

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On Sunday 31 March 'At Home' visits the 'Sugarloaf House' in Castlecrag, designed by Ellen Woolley Architects.

Designed for a family and their menagerie of pets, the Castlecrag home has been carefully designed to work to the contraints of the sites challenging topography and surrounding environment.

It sits on a narrow platform, between two close coupled cliffs front and back, and is further penned in on both sides by long large houses. The first cliff is just behind the front street boundary. The second cliff, to their rear garden and beyond, is to the bushland. This communal backyard slips down to a small creek and onto Harold Reid Reserve’s stunning lower north shore ecology. In the centre of their garden sits a monumental Angophora, surrounded by the daily work of the owner, a local bee keeper.

The house pursues a civic social purpose. From the public street front it breaks the previously continuous street frontage wall twice

First it offers both a green plateau (roof garden) that reveals Harold Reid’s bushland. Second it carves out a central void down to the sandstone bedrock heart that is the narrow platform the house sits on, allowing the passer-by to connect from the earth, to the framed Angophora beyond and up to the sky through the house’s heart. This can be screened at the owners’ discretion for greater privacy.

So there is a spatial flow created through the heart of the home, onto its natural bedrock base and out to the bushland. This does two things. It directly connects us to the natural context, but it also allows for central ‘landscape room’ focus with the house being able to ‘turn its back’ to the two side boundaries and create a private light filled oasis for every inhabited room (bar the ‘bee’ one that necessitates complete removal). And so whilst the house on one hand is centexturally responsible, it has concurrently a very intimate and private interior. These co-exiting intents unite in the aim to ameliorate and even improve our interference with nature and tries to better connect us to this remarkable ecology and landscape in a more mindful way.

The construction is essentially two giant ‘esky’ pavilions (polyisocyanurate) clad in long life thermal mass (concrete), with literally the bedrock earth in the middle. The stair folds, like filigree, across this void.


Ellen Woolley established her private practice, Ellen Woolley Architects in the early 2000s. The small studio, operating out of Castlecrag, specialises in residential architecture.

Their projects are often found on challenging sites, working with bushfire, extreme topographies, environmental conservation, sustainability and heritage.

The practices portfolio of single homes and alterations and additions, has been recognised through industry awards and has been featured in published anthologies on Australian Architecture and digital publications.

Ellen is also an active member of the Australian architecture community, taking part as a juror in NSW Institute of Architecture awards and as a writer about architects and architecture in publications such as ArchitectureNow.


Location: Castlecrag NSW
Please note that the address and meeting point will only be forwarded to ticket holders in the days immediately before the tour.
Time: 11.00am - 12.00pm
Date: Sunday 31 March 2019
Tickets: $35 (Early Bird) / $45 (Public) / $30 (AAA Members)

Don't miss your opportunity to experience this privately owned residence, numbers are limited. Book your place on the tour, click here.

  • Article: Annette Dearing & Vanessa Couzens
  • Images: Sugarloaf House, designed by Ellen Woolley Architects
  • Photographer: Vanessa Couzens