Text description provided by the architects. The site is located at the top of a windswept sand dune, dropping down to the beach at its base. The wind-beaten dune vegetation shows the ferocity of the local conditions, with south-westerly winds regularly whipping across the ocean from the Bass Strait. The house we have designed for this site is replacing a previous house on the site by the same owners that were condemned due to significant steel corrosion throughout the structure. We came into the project with full knowledge of the history of the site and with the task of designing a house that could withstand a barrage of ocean spray and windy salt-driven rain without deteriorating over time.
The family split their time between this property and their farm, and consist of a couple with 2 grown children, very elderly grandparents and future grandchildren in the picture. The house then has been designed as a response to site and weather conditions, a response to views and surrounding vegetation, and a response to multi-generational living and the kind of spaces that entails. Materials are rustic and low maintenance, and in situ concrete shells warmed up with Australian hardwood timber.
As well as perching over the dune escarpment, the house also sits adjacent to a public beach car park. A key element of the design was the interface with this public realm, which we sought to engage with, whilst retaining a degree of privacy for the owners. There is no fence to the public domain, just the edge of the house itself, and we’ve broken down the mass of the building to this side, opening up to the public through a large portal opening over the garage with a dune roof garden that will mature and merge with the landscape outside the house. From within the house, the roof garden cuts out and frames the view to Point Lonsdale lighthouse, creating a dual sense of protection and connection, whilst from the car park it provides a welcome green edge and a glimpse into the domestic life of the house beyond. The landscape to the car park edge emulates the native dune landscape and the battened entry screen into the double-height forecourt continues the soft delineation of the public to private, with sandy landscape drifting through into this entry area, while the roof garden spills down from above.
Inside, the split level plan sets the house over three main levels, with a sculpted central atrium linking the layers. This void gives the living area a feeling of airy lightness despite its robust concrete shell. As one moves through the house, the formal geometry relaxes and becomes more expansive, reflecting the transition from the public to the private realm. The sculpted curves of the void and helical stair carry through into the set down carpeted living area and kitchen joinery, and shaped openings through the concrete. The organic lines are a natural fit with the rugged native surroundings, creating an easy flow between spaces and reflecting the windswept beauty of the natural environment beyond the house. The plan wraps around the site, enclosing an elevated, tiered central courtyard, pool, and roof garden with views straight through the house to the ocean horizon beyond. Living spaces are on the beach edge, kids’ bedrooms to the far side of the courtyard, parents above on the ocean edge, and grandparents on the bottom level.
The separation of the generations allows multigenerational living over extended periods, and the design offers moments of privacy, gathering spaces and room to grow with future generations. The raised central courtyard, pool and roof garden provides sunny, and more importantly - sheltered outdoor space, and is an anchor point for the plan. The tactic of pulling the courtyard up to the mid-level with the raised roof garden sitting above the level of the living zone creates the impression that the living is in fact sitting nestled within the natural landscape, beach scrub to one side and native planted dune roof garden to the other. In time, the roof garden will grow and drape over the main concrete elevation, softening the house to the street edge. The hardwood timber lining has been finished in natural oil and will silver off over time, blending the house into the dune scrub surrounds. This is a house that is all about its site.