• Bibaringa's northeast elevation, seen from Bellevue Hill (Max Dupain).

349 New South Head Road, Double Bay, NSW, 1962–63

With his second wife Patricia’s family, the Gales, as his client developers, Snelling designed a block of flats which Architecture and Arts magazine described as “virtually a series of homes stacked one upon the other”.

Bibaringa, an Aboriginal name meaning 'house on the hill', was a 12-storey block of home units which Snelling built on a Double Bay site concealed behind a Victorian Gothic mansion. Several neighbouring land parcels were subdivided and separately developed as multi-residential complexes during the early 1960s. Occupants of all these apartment buildings were acoustically and visually  shielded from noisy New South Head Road by a forest of tropical palms thought to have grown from the century-old remnants of Sydney’s first nursery.

Bibaringa’s north-east façade, facing Sydney Harbour and prominent in distant views from Bellevue Hill, was composed with a monochromatic massing (an irregular yet modular tartan pattern) of windows and balconies, apparently set within a square frame of reinforced concrete. Floor slabs projected forward, partly for sunshading, and intermittently were deepened to become balconies. These platforms were juxtaposed by solid white walls and shadowed glazing. Symmetrically spaced at the rear of the building were two lift-and-stair towers, both projecting above the roof to include machinery rooms.

The building contained 31 home units: two three-bedroom flats on each of floors 8–12 and two three-bedroom plus one two-bedroom apartments on each of floors 1–7. All units faced northeast and included balconies accessed through pairs of sliding glass doors. Smaller windows on the northeast façade were fitted above ventilation panels of fixed bronze louvres. Panels of timber louvres were fitted above internal doors to encourage cross-ventilation.

  • Perspective of the Bibaringa entrance, with koi carp pond and security screens.

From Max Dupain photographs of the display units, it appears that Snelling finished them in the same style as his 1950s houses. Kitchens and balcony doors were fitted with sliding shoji screens, and living and dining areas were divided by freestanding cedar storage units. Windows were fitted with translucent white curtains. Kitchens featured his usual stainless steel benchtops and 'integrated' appliances. Bathrooms were given three colour schemes: pink, green, and brown-and-yellow. There were no cornices or skirting boards.

Externally, Bibaringa’s driveway led cars around the building, with angled parking spaces at the rear. Two grand, landscaped entrances provided back and front access to the ground floor lobby, where  floor-to-ceiling glazing maximized impressions that the Japanese style-ponds flowed inside and out. Visitors crossed the ponds via sandstone slabs that appeared to hover over the water. The elegant reception foyer was furnished with custom-made chairs and a sofa, and included a concierge office, directory boards and letter boxes.

Sources

—Architecture and Arts. 1963. ‘Home units in Double Bay, Sydney’, October, pp. 32–39.

—Australian Gas Journal. 1963. December newsletter, n.p.

—Building Ideas. 1963. ‘Luxury flats’, December, pp. 4–5.

—Building: Lighting: Engineering. 1963. ‘The A.F. Little story: rapid development and great achievement’, June, p. 83.

—Constructional Review. 1964. ‘Home unit buildings change Sydney’s skyline’, February. pp.11, 13–15.

—Daily Telegraph, The (You and Your Home). 1963. ‘Modern play in 31 scenes’, 2 June, pp. 68–69.

—Pemberton, Gary J. 1984. Douglas B. Snelling: A Monograph of His Works (B. Arch dissertation). Sydney: New South Wales Institute of Technology.

—Philippine Architecture and Building Journal. N.d. ‘Bachelor flats, 76 Roslyn Gardens, Elizabeth Bay, Sydney’, Vol. 4, No. 1, p. 48.

—Philippine Architecture and Building Journal. N.d. ‘Bibaringa home units, Douglas C. Snelling, architect’, Vol. 3, No. 4,  pp. 36, 57.

—Royal Australian Institute of Architects. 1964. Exhibition of Members Work – Blaxland Gallery 28th May–6th June 1964.

—Sydney: SLNSW PICMAN Archive, PXD 874, architectural drawings donated by Graeme Hewitt.

—Trevillion, James. 1995. The Adventures of Douglas B. Snelling (B. Arch dissertation). Sydney: University of Technology, Sydney.