Dempsey Warehouse

Marra + Yeh Architects

Dempsey Warehouse is an experiment in alternative living which encapsulates the social ethos of its owners and stewards for the past 45+ years, instigated by the late Col James AM. The idea of and repurposing Dempsey into residential space was as simple as it was effective – to arrest the ever-expanding University of Sydney from gobbling up more of the Darlington neighbourhood and to provide an alternative form of housing to the stand-alone single-family dwelling Dempsey is located in the inner-city suburb of Darlington, named after the Darling Nursery established by Thomas Shepherd in the 1820’s. Shepherd’s nursery provided fruit trees to land owners and his active involvement in botanical and horticultural circles influenced the establishment of the Sydney Botanic Gardens. Darlington sits on Gadi land and in close proximity to Victoria Park, an area known as a rich source of foods for the Gadigal prior to colonisation.

The design proposition responds to these rich layers of history by creating a series of gardens at ground and roof level which reference the landscape character of Darlington through history. The gardens provide shade, amenity, a mix of native and exotic plantings in addition to fruit bearing trees and various herbal plants. The current renovation integrates the long held desire for a low-carbon low-emissions building, incorporating renewable energy, phase change materials, recycled timbers removed from the roof, high levels of insulation including to cavity brick walls, removal of air-conditioning, low energy lighting, ceiling fans and cross ventilation via new timber windows, refurbished steel windows, and a piano recycled into wall art. The renovation highlights layers of history to reveal personal family stories and connection to place, with the University and the Col James Student Housing project in Redfern visible from the roof garden.

Photography by Brett Boardman

Furniture: Client’s own. Lighting: Louis Poulsen. Finishes: Dulux, Big River Timbers, Colorbond. Fittings & Fixtures: Recycled existing.