- Architect In Charge : Clinton Murray, Polly Harbison
- Design Team : Nicholas Byrne, Vince Myson
- Structural Engineer : Ken Murtagh
- Interior Designer : Ralph Rembel
- Landscape Architect : Daniel Baffsky
- Lighting : Andre Tammes
- City : Sydney
- Country : Australia
Text description provided by the architects. Our client’s love of art inspired experimentation with sculptural forms. First and foremost, the house had to be a home, not an art gallery. Secondly, our clients were determined we made the most of the beautiful views over the beach and to the harbour beyond. We looked to Isamu Noguchi for inspiration. His iconic sculptures curve and twist and link us to other worlds.
The concrete sculptural form is a union between engineering and architecture, a series as boxes assembled to respond to views, sun and privacy. Simple design principles of orientation, thermal mass and natural ventilation are fundamental to the design.
The critical moment in the design was emphasising the opportunity we had to connect the house to the community. In an area typically dominated by high fences and intercoms, we’ve allowed passers-by to touch and feel the building, and look through it to Balmoral beach. This experience is further enhanced by the careful positioning of selected artworks in the main undercroft and garden. One sculpture, a cast human form, lays passively, arms outstretched, waiting for commentary. A recent example from two small boys passing questioned the presence of a ‘dead man’ while the other responded, ‘that’s not a dead man, that’s art!’
From within the house, views are carefully edited and framed to create a sense of serenity and isolation. Fixed glass windows are housed in deep concrete reveals. All opening windows are framed in timber and slide on concealed tracks. Recessed in to the concrete above are retractable louvres. The whole house can close down against the dramas of Australian coastal living.
Housed within the building is a lifetime collection of sculpture and art. The individual needs of each artwork were considered like any other occupant. The stairwell is itself sculptural, carved from concrete and lit from above. The skylights create ever-changing shafts of light that animate the experience of the objects placed within.
There is a simple palette of timber and concrete, contrasting the rich tones and textures of the art collection. Interiors are a seamless extension of the architecture. An ‘Yves Klein’ blue ceiling floats provocatively above the main living room. The same disciplined design restraint is evident in the detailing. External walls morph into internal walls. Soffits become ceilings, and when the high doors all slide away, the kitchen becomes a part of the landscape, a nest in the trees, a safe haven.