Published in Broadsheet
Redfern’s grimy energy stops short at the pocket between Phillip and Baptist Streets. Here, concrete Brutalist architecture gives way to rows of Victorian terraces, and a tin shed juts out of the storybook setting, lending an otherworldly shimmer to the sepia haze.
For Jane Smith, it was this precise quality that drew her to the shed in the first place. “I grew up in farms and I’ve always thought there was something romantic about tin sheds,” says the film producer and long-time Redfern local. “I’ve lived on this street for years and always loved the shed. I decided to buy it two and a half years ago, right at the peak of the market. Strangely enough, it got through council really quickly.”
Smith enlisted the help of young architect Raffaello Roselli to repurpose the existing structure – a process that saw them scour Sydney scrap yards to reassemble layers of corrugated iron and create steel window boxes that overlooked the street. She says that the mishmash of textures was inspired by a recent trip to Barcelona, a city possessing the kind of adventurous attitude to architecture that she believes Australians should adopt.
“A Canadian couple recently knocked on the door to tell me how much they loved the place,” says Smith. “They said, ‘We’ve just been travelling through Barcelona and this place reminds us of being there’. It made me realise that I’d achieved my goal.”
Although Smith had intended for the tin shed to serve as headquarters for her production company, these days it strengthens her connection to the rest of the world.
“I rent it out through Airbnb and so far I’ve had French, Canadian, English and Danish travellers stay. Most people say it surpasses their expectations, which I love.”
Although the dilapidated shed has beared silent witness to Redfern’s evolution since 1920, it had been under threat of demolition for years. When Smith rescued the shed, she saw it as an opportunity to create something that went beyond design statement. Indeed, she sees it as a tribute to the suburb itself.
“It used to be an old shearing shed and, for me, that was the beauty of it. When I first moved here, so many people asked me why I would choose Redfern, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather live. Here, the trees are deciduous and you actually feel like the seasons are changing. There’s something really special about this.