Judges at the World Architecture Festival described the winning interior project of 19 Waterloo Street by SJB in Australia as “not only a building or an interior, but a pocket-sized tour de force”. 

With a footprint of 30m² and a Jacques Tati-esque facade of recycled and broken brick, this house playfully engages with the street through the arrangement and geometry of openings. Ultimately, it’s about sustainability – doing more with less, reusing a site, reusing materials and better using an existing connected place. 

More with less 

The project is an exercise in limiting the footprint but expanding connections – of being in the city and part of its fabric, but removed from it, in a quiet oasis. 

Using a split section, the stair is the pinwheel around which the house moves. More like a tree house than a real house, the dwelling is divided into spaces that are served or in service: 

  • Service spaces are short with 2,1m ceilings – storage, kitchen, robe and ensuite. 
  • Served spaces are grand with 3,6m ceilings – study, living and bedroom. 

Highlighting joy 


The use of light brings moments of joy throughout the space.

The interior design aids the moments of expansion and contraction, creating pockets of high drama and reprieve when ascending through the home. Access to light presents moments of joy throughout. 

In the bathroom, large monstera plants wall the shower, enjoying the daily steam and ceiling void and light above. In the study, a gold leaf-coated void refracts morning light down towards the workstation, which is a heavenly response to an otherwise cavernous room. 

Art invasion 

Embedded into the project is a discrete ambition to incorporate art and support artists – to re-engage artists in the making of buildings, with the intent of embedding specific cultural identity into the built fabric. 

In the study, a work by Kate Bergin speaks to sustainability and endangered species. The front gate is cast bronze by Mika Utzon-Popov, and an all-enveloping landscape by Nicholas Harding titled Eora can be viewed from the street. 

“Eora” was the word used by the Aboriginal people of Sydney to describe where they came from when asked by the British invaders what the place of first settlement was called. The landscape depicts the native terrain pre-colonisation. It’s gesturing to the street is a glimpse to the past.  


Using a split section, the stair is the pinwheel around which the house moves.

Passive design 

Landscaping by Dangar Barrin Smith is sprawled across the house as a different type of artistry, helping to lower the urban heat island effect while adding to the network of wild urban gardens. The project followed Passivhaus principles but chose to amend them to better suit the Sydney context. For example, the house employed the promoted internal insulation lining, conducted a blower test and incorporates an internal air handing unit, but also chose to make the dwelling as openable as possible, to encourage cross-ventilation. 


  • All appliances utilise heat-pump technology. 
  • The house is double glazed and does not employ air-conditioning. 
  • Passive design principles of facade depth and orientation ensure summer sun protection and winter sun penetration. 
  • The dwelling is 90% self-sufficient from an electric position, using rooftop photovoltaic cells and battery storage. 

Project: 19 Waterloo Street. 

Location: Surry Hills, Australia. 

Architect: SJB. 

Lead architect name: Adam Haddow.  

World Architecture Festival: Category winner, entrant, shortlist, World Interior of the Year. 

Category: Inside – residential (single dwelling).   

Year: 2023. 

Image credits: Anson Smart.  

 Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://www.worldarchitecturefestival.com/ and www.archdaily.com for the information in this article. 

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