Courted House dissolves the threshold between landscape and domestic life. Adjacencies and immediacies between garden and dwelling occur throughout a gridded plan. Planting, sunlight and breeze are internalised through a layering of court-like rooms. This is an other-worldly place where time is defined by the sun’s path around a framed sky. A perimeter of perforated steel screens and cement panels filter the surrounding streets and neighbours. Five metre ceilings and vertical white planes play with light and shadow to enclose with generosity. Complexity comes not from the architecture itself, but from the rich ecology of life in reciprocal relationship with its surrounds.

Courted House condenses and urbanises the classic Australian wrap-around verandah by inverting the model. A central courtyard, secluded from busy surrounds, provides an interior version of “bush”. A lush garden, lit by softly reflected sunlight from the cedar-clad walls is the home’s heart. Embracing each edge of the courtyard is the kitchen, dining, lounge and entry. Rather than conventional interiors, these are four ‘courts’ with proportions, materiality and openings that make a singular composition with the external courtyard. The whole interior becomes a verandah; an outdoor interior of garden and home made inextricably one.

By Toby Breakspear, Tiffany Liew, 2015-2018 Completed. Built by A.M. Custom Builders. Structural Engineering by Cantilever. Photography by Tom Ferguson.

2019 Houses Awards, New Houses under 200m2, Shortlist
2019 Australian Interior Design Awards, Shortlist
2019 INDE. Awards, The Living Space Category, Shortlist
2019 NSW Australian Institute of Architects Residential Awards, Shortlist


Poly combines architecture, exhibition design and product fabrication in an installation commissioned and presented by the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF). It is a collective pavilion; a group of hooded and moveable structures each proportioned to fit two seated people. The hoods are on wheels for easy rearrangement by both the gallery staff and visitors. Planned and unplanned events occur around various social and solo arrangements of Poly. The making of Poly was a process of digital prefabrication with the structures designed as a cutting file, milled from a stockpile of aluminium composite panels, shipped flat and folded together in the gallery by hand without the need for expensive tooling.

By Toby Breakspear, Tomek Archer, 2014. Photography by Brett Boardman, Kasia Werstak.

IDEA Awards 2014, Shortlist


Greater Sydney is bounded to the West by the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, forming a rare adjacency between global city and pristine wilderness. Echo Point, with direct train and highway connection to Sydney is the main arrival point for five million visitor per year to the Blue Mountains.
In this location, a new information centre can become a point of reference for the entire Blue Mountains with the same transformative impact as the Torri gates of Japan; structures that mark a transition from the mundane to sacred. As a gateway, the new centre can lead visitors from the existing lookout into the bush for direct encounters with the landscape’s remarkable cultural, geological and ecological history.

The Darug and Gundungurra indigenous communities have a long and spiritual connection with the Blue Mountains country. At their suggestion, the new centre blends architecture and landscape to provide ideal settings for cultural exchange. A simple sheltering gesture with the centre’s new roof will connect the site’s peripheries into a singular composition that invites exploration beyond a previously confined perimeter. The centre becomes a continuation of walking trails that reach far into the distant valleys. A roof overhang defines an entry to the trails and suggests a gathering place for laces to be tied and guides to be met within the protected fern gully micro-climate. Horizontally proportioned and gently sloping in parallel to the natural 1:40 gradient, the centre is a grounded space that merges with the terrain of plateaus and gorges carved from ancient sandstone.

Dense eucalyptus forest blankets one million hectares of the Blue Mountains. The perfumed oils exhaled by each breathing tree are so abundant that incoming light is scattered by their presence, a phenomenon that contributes to a visible blue aura in the region’s atmosphere. The new visitor centre is a sequence of external interiors that bathe in this unique air. The centre has no walls. A timber block, containing storage, staff services, information kiosk and merchandise display is sculpted in parallel to the concrete roof above. The block is a spine between the arrival forecourt and the centre’s public spaces for retail, information, exhibition and events. An operable, sinuous skin of glass moderates the rain and wind. Through the transparent facade a wall of forest encloses the interior. Amongst the tree trunks are tangential glimpses of the iconic Three Sisters. Views are not framed, the landscape and architecture are experienced as one. The ceiling is an uninterrupted surface supported with a minimum of vertical steel columns. The sheltering concrete mass is dematerialised as the mountain light is reflected and intensified from the soft polished sheen.

By Toby Breakspear, Tiffany Liew, Ciaran Acton, in collaboration with CHROFI, 2015-Current. Structural Engineering by Cantilever. For Blue Mountains City Council


The robust rationality of oneA is a framework for sustainable urban living that brings residents and their surrounds together in a rich ecology of life. Each apartment has an integrated living and balcony space that encourages outdoor dwelling along the building’s leafy edge. A lush communal garden fills the OneA’s courtyard. Over an outdoor public foyer and entry, a void dramatically rises to the sky through the building’s main vertical axis. Branching from the central void and foyer are breezeway links that make a pedestrian street for movement throughout the building in the constant presence of natural elements. A modular, off-form concrete frame, inset with anodised aluminium panels offers the street a facade of coherence and rhythm. The raw and robust materials will patina and age gracefully with time. Creepers reach the full height of the building and operable fabric awnings combine to soften and enliven OneA’s enduring presence.

By Toby Breakspear, in collaboration with Kann Finch (Executive Architect), 2015-2018. Photography by Tom Ferguson.

City of Sydney Design Excellence Competition, 1st Place
2019 NSW Architecture Awards, Shortlist


The Manly Art Gallery and Museum [MAG&M] will integrate the building with the surrounding public realm, create a strong and inviting identity, improve the exhibition rooms and introduce new facilities that will see the gallery become a vibrant community meeting place with space for events, education, performance, study and a cafe.

By Toby Breakspear, John Kang, Ciaran Acton, Matthew Argent, 2018. For Northern Beaches Council


A surprise to the Sydney Road House site is the rear garden’s tranquility in contrast to the busy street address. The renovation reorganises the main living and bedroom spaces away from the traffic noise to connect with the garden. A magnificent frangipani and established mulberry tree, planted perhaps not long after the original cottage was built 100 years ago, are rediscovered to become a focus of the rear extension.

A timber truss spans the site’s width to enclose the upper level bedroom and make uninterrupted ground level living spaces. The structure gives the bedroom baffled privacy from oblique neighbours and affords direct views to Sydney Harbour beyond. When the glass doors are slid open, the garden and interior join as a single room. The new concrete floor is sunken to meet flush with the grass, creating an intimacy between inside and outside. Northern sunlight enters the new living rooms through a double height void. Through the void a fine steel staircase and bridge link with the master bedroom. Sydney Road House’s new zinc-clad facade and interior become inseparable from the garden. The whole site becomes an unexpectedly serene experience of dwelling through a simple reorganisation of space.

By Toby Breakspear, 2014-2017. Structural Engineering by Waddington Consulting. Photography by Clinton Weaver


Curl Curl House’s costly location precluded anything but the simplest architecture to be made within the client’s remaining construction budget. The project is a study in efficiency to make a generous home with modest expense. It is a simple, open vessel for a surfing family that is enriched by breathing in the coastal surrounds.

A pre-fabricated grid of steel portal frames economically defines the house. The rational structure is fitted with many rooms to accomodate a family of five. Within the compact planning are two courtyards and a double-height living volume; bountiful moments that fill the interior with sea breezes and sunlight. Glazing is limited to the perimeter of these few openings. One courtyard is a north oriented room to the rear garden, the other is an external entry for washing off sandy feet and surfboards. The boundary walls and roof are uninterrupted planes of basic metal sheeting. Internal surfaces of concrete bricks and slabs have mass to moderate the internal temperature and durability to withstand the salt laden air and a battering from three rowdy young boys. Curl Curl house is robust backdrop and pragmatic framework to simplify life by the beach.

By Toby Breakspear, Tiffany Liew, 2016 – 2017 Completed. Photography by Clinton Weaver


A stacked duplex is converted into a single residence within the existing two-storey double-brick envelope. A series of careful cuts to the walls, floor and roof create a continuous flow of spaces from the entry and garden, up a stairwell filled with light from a large skylight above to the living areas on the upper floor, which look out over the landscape.

Each of the seven new openings in the building are treated differently. An expansive clear opening to the rear garden is created by replacing the existing bi-folding timber framing with a single piece of glass that slides out of view on an external steel track. A finely crafted steel staircase winds up through a spacious opening in the floor. A skylight over this void spills light throughout the house. Over the kitchen bench a large fixed glass window brings the nearby trees into the room, while a small square winding casement window over the stove draws fresh air. Finally, the original sunroom has been fitted with a series of mechanical steel pivot windows that dramatically open the corner of the room to the valley of Manly, Sydney Harbour and the Pacific Ocean.

By Toby Breakspear, in collaboration with Tomek Archer, 2013. Photography by Peter Bennetts.


Breakspear Architects have been selected to design a new lifeguard tower for Bronte Beach. We are giving great importance to the act of placing a structure on a beach as the coast is a special environment considered sacrosanct
in Australian culture. The structures will be prefabricated for easy installation and removal from the site, in much the same way beach-goers arrange and pack-up their towels, umbrellas, surfboards and eskies in weekend rituals.

Placing a designed small infrastructure project to support public amenity on the beach foreshore in a sensitive marine environment requires careful consideration of the site, it’s opportunities and constraints and a deep understanding of place. We collaborated with Council and undertook extensive stakeholder and community consultation to deliver a high quality design solution which demonstrates understanding of the cultural heritage of Bronte Park and the beach front.

By Toby Breakspear, Tiffany Liew, 2017-Current. For Northern Beaches Council.


The natural setting of Curl Curl Beach may be spectacularly beautiful, yet the constant exposure to ocean winds when living on its shore can be surprisingly harsh. Carrington House is for a couple who intend to grow old together by their beloved beach and art collection. For such a task, a house as something of an internal universe seems appropriate; a place where the ocean’s immense presence is selectively allowed to enter and be resisted. A small footprint, sunken into the sand, is linked over four diverse levels with a central stair and lift for immediate connectivity. The volume is wrapped in a tough brick skin that withstands the salt spray and conceals an inner complexity.

A grid of concrete framing defines discrete settings for enjoying life’s daily rituals within a constant ocean backdrop. The front bay is for reading and chatting, a living room that stretches to the horizon through a giant bay window. A courtyard in the third bay lets the interior open to a tranquil walled garden. Adjacent kitchen, dining and circulation areas can spill outdoors even when the winds are blowing. A table for 30 can easily be arranged through the spatial grid when the couple’s family visit for frequent celebrations. A roof terrace provides escape when conditions are calm.

By Toby Breakspear, John Kang, Matthew Argent, 2017-Current.