House built to weather the storms
Ocean beaches have long been a drawcard for people looking to escape the city for the summer. But coastal sites pose their own set of challenges for architects, and it is the salt-laden wind that demands the most respect.
This new beach house, designed by David Ponting and Matthew Fitzgerald, takes its cue from the frequently harsh environment, creating a defensive sanctuary that protects the house against the strong southwesterly winds.
“The coastal area is assailed by wind, sand and sea salt, and this was our biggest consideration,” says Ponting. “But the site is also a rather compressed environment with neighbours close by, so privacy was another determining factor for the design.”
Facing the street, the cedar-clad house presents a solid, fortress-like volume – an effect amplified by arrow-slot windows and a precast concrete base.
“The curved form of the house echoes the way driftwood is eroded over time,” Ponting says. “It’s an acknowledgment of the weathering that will occur, and it creates a sense of erosion – a softened materiality. The pleating of the Shadowcast base provides a play of light and shadow. These panels are heavily modulated with patterns that provide an organic, very textural character. The effect resembles sand sculptures.”
Fitzgerald says the dark cedar-wrapped upper storey appears to float over the concrete base, enhancing a sense of intrigue and mystery.
“A slatted timber sliding screen provides another layer of protection from the street, and what lies beyond is unexpected. The house opens right up to a bright, sunlit courtyard that is sheltered from the prevailing winds. The house wraps around the courtyard in a C shape, providing two wings – one public and one private – with a linking volume.”
The single-storey wing accommodates the open-plan living area, with sliding doors that peel back to completely open up the internal corner to the terrace. Deep overhangs help keep the house cool in summer, yet allow the sun to enter in winter.
“The living pavilion sits on a slight angle, which opens up the courtyard to the sun – it gets in earlier and stays longer,” says Ponting. “It also works with the shape of the site, allowing slices of the view to the sand dunes and sea.”
On the interior, the house has a relaxed beach house aesthetic. To reinforce the connection between inside and out, the cedar shiplap boards extend through to the interior in the living area, where they form the surround to a large gas fireplace. A low concrete hearth runs the full length of the wall, providing a modern interpretation of a window seat.
Grooved plywood that resembles traditional tongue-and-groove panelling is painted white, adding another textural element.
Two parallel islands in the centre of the living space ensure the cook is right in the heart of the action, with views out to the courtyard in one direction and to the sea in the other.
A separate family room is provided at the base of the stairs leading up to the master and guest suites. This area is defined by high timber balustrading that echoes the curve of the house.
“The mezzanine wraps around the top floor, with the curved balustrading providing an additional layer of shelter and protection that mimics the ribbon of cedar on the outside,” says Fitzgerald. “It also ensures the family room is a cosy retreat. A David Trubridge lighting fixture reinforces the slatted form of the balustrade.”
Kitchen and vanity manufacturer: Form Design
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