Architects: B.E ARCHITECTURE
Location: Shoreham, Victoria, Australia
Builder: John Woodbridge
Consultants: Stantin Consulting (Structural), Phillip Chun & Associates (Building Surveyor)
Area: 520 sqm
Photographs: Peter Clarke
The house at Blake Street is a response to the blend of coastal and rural characteristics evident at the site. The dominant feature of the house is the massive stone podium which allows for the ruggedness of the site to be preserved without compromising the utility of the house. By elevating the house, it has the feel of being in the trees, and allows the indigenous vegetation of the site to come right up to the house. The stonework is also a reference to the strong presence of many of the older buildings in the surrounding area, which feature stone plinths of identical white Maffra stone and similar rudimentary construction.
The brief called for a house that was relaxed and casual, and felt like it belonged at the site. Because the site is particular exposed to wind, this has dictated the form and position of the building. Entry to the house is on the windward or western side; whilst on the leeward or north eastern side the house opens up to take advantage of the greater protection afforded this side. The scale of the house is mitigated by the stone podium, partially concealed by the ground and vegetation, and containing ancillary spaces and a guest wing.
BE Architecture has developed a multi-disciplinary practice which draws upon the diverse skills of its staff and covers a range of disciplines including interior, industrial and landscape design. This means that a number of consultants that would normally be needed on a project of this scale are not required. However, key contributions to the project were made by the structural engineer, through the design of an economical and understated structure for the timber buildings, and Marcos Davidson, the artist who made the wrought iron light fitting in the main living space which references the vegetation of the site.
The project was cost effective in spite of the rural location due to the minimisation of the number of trades required. The bulk of the house was built by carpenters utilising conventional lightweight construction techniques. The extensive stonework was also constructed primarily by bricklayers as opposed to specialist stonemasons, utilising rough struck local stone.
The house has been designed and constructed with sustainability in mind. Insulation techniques throughout the house are above and beyond standard requirements, as the house features numerous layers of insulation, applied at each different stage of the construction. External walls feature thick frames, boosting thermal performance. Windows are double glazed with split frames. A variety of other techniques including thermal extract fans, hydronic heating and solar hot water also minimise energy consumption. Extensive underground rainwater tanks provide water for irrigation and all functions required by the house.
The black and white colour scheme of the exterior acknowledges the necessity of treating timber to prolong its lifespan, especially in such an exposed site, but pushes this further to develop a strong graphic composition out of what may initially appear as a constraint.