Project TeamAndrew Burges, Celia Carroll, Laure Vandenbroucke
Text description provided by the architects. Our brief for the Pittwater house was to create a beach house for a retired couple that was large enough for their extended family of children and grandchildren to visit and stay. The character of the house was to be reminiscent of the early Palm Beach houses, with a stone base and timber cladding above. The footprint of the house was pre-determined by an existing DA for the property.
The site is located on the thin, flat strip of land that runs between the Palm Beach ridgeline escarpment and Pittwater. This distinct geography gives these waterfront properties a dual public face public street frontage along Barrenjoey Rd and public beach frontage on the Pittwater edge.
Out of this brief and the particularities of the site 3 considerations shaped our conceptual framework for the project:
• How to moderate the scale pressures that come from the contemporary program of the beach house as a multi-generational gathering point - a pressure which often bloats the scale of new dwellings to the point that there is no commonality with the small footprint weekenders that determined the favourable landscape character of the area in the first place.
• How to create thresholds that could connect with the Pittwater geography whilst being able to provide complete privacy from the dual public face of the street to the east and the beachfront to the west.
• How to find a distinct contemporary expression of the early vernacular stone and timber beach house.
Our strategy was to divide the footprint of the house into two identical pavilions addressing either the street or the beach, connected by a north facing double height indoor/outdoor room that housed the kitchen and dining room. This manipulation of the overall building form within the requested footprint more than halved the perceptible size of the house as viewed from the public realm of the street or the beach.
In response to the request for privacy, particularly on the beach front façade, we developed a thickened threshold characterized by an operable façade borrowing the functional technology of the many boats adjacent the house. Using a rope and pulley system on stainless steel outriggers driven by linear actuators, the façade can be opened and closed to provide infinite combinations of shade, exposure and privacy in relation to the western orientation and views over Pittwater.
In developing the material character of the house we attempted to give each of the two materials used – timber and stone – their own distinct monolithic quality to heighten the simple play on the layering of the early vernacular beach house. The monolithic quality of the stone was developed through the use of thick, carefully shaped thresholds that imbued the stone with a carved quality.
The monolithic quality of the timber was developed through a carefully orchestrated relationship of timber elements where there was no visible distinction in language between a customized recycled tallow wood cladding, screen system, and doors and windows.