The Sydney Retreat - BTB Architecture Studio | ArchiPro

The Sydney Retreat

Group Housing | The Sydney Retreat

Stanmore, NSW

The Sydney Retreat is a not-for-profit residential facility for recovery from alcohol and drug dependency. It is run by a group of professionals and businessmen and women all with experience dealing with the problems around drug and alcohol addiction.

The Sydney Retreat represents a non-clinical, mutual-help approach to the problem of alcohol and drug dependency. Based on a highly successful model that originates from Minnesota. The Sydney Retreat will foster a supportive, educational setting that is grounded in the spiritual principles of AA. The result is an innovative residential recovery facility providing time-out from daily life, in a safe and supportive environment.

The original house on the site is one of four, grand, heritage-listed Victorian villas in a row, dating to the 1880s. There was an existing, ancillary structure to the rear of the site, possibly originally used for stabling and, later, as garaging and a workshop. The original house had been extensively altered and added to overtime, most notably at the rear, and had, for many years, been used as a boarding house.

The design philosophy, and approach, was to maintain and restore as much of the original house as possible. The main, grand front portion of the house was retained and restored, with reversible internal interventions. The much-altered, original rear wing was also retained and sympathetically adapted for the new role. Much later, unsympathetic and poor quality additions to the rear of the house were identified as having no heritage significance and were, therefore, selectively removed.

The ‘shell’ of the former workshop building was retained. Built to the rear and side boundaries, it provided a much-needed floor area that would not be permitted to be replicated, in new construction, by local authorities. The bounding masonry walls to the workshop were retained and a new, two-storey addition was constructed, connected to the rear of the original house and emerging from the envelope of the workshop building. This new addition is of unquestionably contemporary form, detail, and material, clearly distinct from the original but respectful in terms of scale, detail, and siting. This new work helps to define the central, north-facing landscaped courtyard, a space that is seen as key to the functioning of the facility.

The Sydney Retreat provides shared sleeping quarters for residents and common facilities including, meeting rooms, dining, and kitchen, all grouped around the shared courtyard. The heritage villa provides the comfort of cultural and built continuity and memory, while the new work provides light, comfortable, contemporary spaces that inspire togetherness, reflection, and recovery.

The Sydney Retreat began construction in early 2020 and was complete by late 2020.

Photography: The Guthrie Project

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