bléuscape design

Australian Sandcastles

While I am on a bit of a role with posting about great Aussie houses, I thought I would include this series sponsored by Boral earlier this year. This set of houses are all Australian award winners; simply, another feast for the eyes.

Episode 01

Perched over the cliffs the Holman house is an iconic architectural centrefold, having graced the covers of dozens of international magazines.

Designed by Neil Durbach and Camilla Block the house was born out of a long and experimental design process. The site plunges 70m over a cliff to the ocean and even after the clients had signed off on the design Neil had doubts it would work.

The builders terraced the narrow site and constructed a large platform that extended past the edge of the cliff where the workers would feel safe. As the house started to rise, the construction team was required to hang from a series of abseiling ties to complete the project

The design was far more powerful than anyone imagined. As the house was being completed the architect kept refining some of its elements. It was a case of the architect as artist putting the final touches to a masterpiece as it was unfolding.

Taking the house from exceptional to ground breaking!

Like a great piece of sculpture the Holman house cannot be easily described although countless articles have tried. Seeing is the only true way to do it justice, our cameras have provided an exclusive look at this masterpiece.

The architects: Neil Durbach & Camilla Block

Durbach Block Jaggers

Neil Durbach and Camilla Block designs evolve out of countless experimental models and sketches. Their work is poetic and sculptural and has received many awards for individuality. Applying modernist design ideals they create beautiful human scaled spaces that are stimulating and sensual.

Neil admits there are many jobs that he goes back and visits and after an hour he’s ready to leave. At the Holman house, he still marvels at how well light travels throughout the spaces and the constantly changing view. Seven years on it stands as a groundbreaking design and one the architects still consider their best.

Episode 02

The Australian Institute of Architects voted this house the best in the country by awarding it the 2010 Robin Boyd prize. It’s the first time a Tasmanian house has received such an honour, and surprisingly the design is effectively an alteration and addition not a new residence.

Located an hour west of Hobart it’s well hidden. From an elevated position every window and door along its southern elevation commands a water view across to Bruny Island.

Owned by a noted film and television director whose brief to local Hobart firm HBV (Heffernan Button Voss) was to modify a series of barn like structures and create extra living area. The response was to rearrange the floor plan but ignore current trends of open plan living. This episode is a master class in how to subtly resurrect an old house into something new.

The masterstroke is the creation of a separate living room that looks like a camera; a wonderful space for a visually literate client. Within this concrete lens, views are framed for the cinematic client.

On visiting it’s clear that the house’s greatest quality is its ability to ‘slow you down’. Here time of day matters little. The hours are judged by the length of shadows, the seasons by the angle of the sun.

The architect: James Jones

Architectus Melbourne

James Jones is an architect in demand. He was handed this project after joining HBV architects in Hobart. After the completion of the Trial Bay House, James was head hunted into the Melbourne based firm Architectus. He still remains a Tasmanian at heart and often escapes the rigours of high-end design by retreating to his native island state as often as possible.

Episode 03

Along the Great Ocean Road about 20mins south of Lorne, you’ll come to Separation Creek. Perched on the headland facing Bass Straight is one of the countries ultimate beach houses. Built of lightweight cement sheeting it echoes the fibro beach shack much loved by all Australians.

The house has a very small footprint and with its green façade it all but disappears into the hillside. Indeed, during filming a kookaburra was so comfortable it laid a claim to the balcony, strutting with confidence, as if to say, ‘what’s everyone doing in my home?’

Built over 3 levels, the top level has an open kitchen, living and breakout room. The midlevel contains the master bedroom and en suite. The lower level has two more bedrooms, a bathroom and laundry.

One of the smallest houses in the series, the Tree House takes its lead from the iconic 1950’s beach shack. It’s a simple house where sandy feet are welcome. Although modest in scale, its large cantilevered balcony hints at clever engineering that also bridges the gap between humble beach shack and modern beach house.

The architect: Graham Burrows

Jackson Clement Burrows

Jackson Clement Burrows is a medium sized firm from Melbourne. The firm’s work now extends to medium and larger scaled projects. Although every architect will admit there is no money in designing houses, the team still believes that getting a house right for a client provides one of the greatest rewards in architecture.

They are currently working on another beach house on the same headland. The balance between creating another amazing house, while not destroying the natural beauty of the hillside is the next challenge for this growing firm.

Episode 04

Is it an ancient ruin, some unique rock formation, maybe something from outer space? On first approach the Beached House is hard to comprehend, let alone describe. This unusual house sits isolated in an open landscape and makes no apology for touching the earth heavily!

Rationalising its external geometry is difficult. All you need to know is that the angles and soaring roof planes form exciting and comfortable internal spaces. Designed for a Melbourne couple and their extended family the plan is surprisingly simple.

The Sandcastles cameramen loved the light as it created all kinds of effects as it passed over the grand monolithic forms.

Architect Julian Kosloff of B-K-K guided us around the property. He’s a down-to-earth practitioner who, along with his partners, has combined drama with practicality and celebrates architecture as a series of spaces to be unravelled.

As Julian explains the beach house experience starts the minute you get in the car and escape from the city. Once you arrive at the destination the experience intensifies as you embrace the architecture, moving through the front door and finally reaching the view. These sequences are part of the journey, the combined goal is to get the participants to unwind and move to another level.

The architect: Julian Koslof

BKK Architects

B-K-K are a growing Melbourne practice who see building as a violent process. It’s an architectural philosophy descended from the Greek rather then the nomadic aim of touching the earth lightly. The result is a bold, unapologetic from of architecture that although takes its cues from nature doesn’t try and blend itself into the landscape.

Episode 05

This little house has a big story to tell. Designed by a local architect for an international rock star who with his wife has literally gone to the opposite end of the world to get away from it all.

Brian Ritchie is the ex bass guitarist from the Violent Femmes, how he ended up in Tasmania, living in his own private musical sanctuary is an extraordinary tale.

The architect Stuart Tanner recalls the time he first saw Brian and his band touring Hobart in the early 90’s not knowing that one day their paths cross again and result in a cross pollination of music and architecture an unlikely combination that led to this award winning home.

Built up against the tress on the shores of the Derwent, the question of why the house doesn’t take full advantage of the views is puzzling, the reason, Brian places more emphasis on ‘hearing’ the view rather then seeing it. This is just one of many unique examples of what can happen when music and art collide.

During filming Pete and Brian jammed to ‘Blister in the sun’, the song that Brian and the Femmes are perhaps best known for, it was one of many unscripted moments.

The architect: Stuart Tanner

Stuart Tanner Architects

Stuart Tanner is amongst a small group of Tasmanian practices that are leading the country in small, beautifully designed houses. His work responds to the powerful landscapes in a robust yet delicate way. Architects like Stuart are a refreshing reminder that world-class architecture can still be found in remote locations.

Episode 06

This Queensland award winner is set in its stunning natural surroundings on Hamilton Island. The residence is sculpted from concrete, stone, block work and glass resulting in a sequence of dramatic volumes incorporating airy living spaces and private sheltered outdoor zones.

Terraces are fluid extensions of internal spaces capturing cooling breezes. Swimming pools, reflection ponds and strategically positioned trickling waterfalls soothe both indoors and outdoors. The house is also built to withstand the destructive forces of tropical cyclones. The client had asked for low maintenance materials – so concrete became the primary material.

The ready-made finish eliminates the need for render or paint, as well as lending the project an instant patina. Finishes such as polished concrete, unfilled honed travertine tiles and textured internal renders were selected for their durability and tactile qualities; the irresistible urge is to experience the house bare-feet whilst enjoying the touch of the smooth, cool stone.

The architect: Renato D’Ettorre

Renato D’Ettorre Architects

As a practice, Renato D’Ettorre Architects draws inspiration and references from many areas. They believe in the power of architecture. That it can purify the mind, help find peace and shelter and that you can emerge enlightened and strengthened by the experience.

Episode 07

Adjacent to one of the most popular Northern Beaches of Sydney, this house is ready for sandy feet and wet towels. Designed for a surfing family whose love of the coast and sharing good times is well served in this open Japanese inspired design.

Plywood timbers give a casual feel, offset by the sophistication of billiard table smooth concrete floors. The decision to put the children’s bedrooms downstairs allows for a kitchen, dinning, living room, roof garden and plunge pool and master bedroom on the upper level all with direct access to the sun and view.

With 3 older children there are plenty of private sitting areas and breakaway spaces. This house will appeal to anyone who understands the needs of mixing active children with comfortable yet stylised architectural design, which is crafted from robust and durable materials.

The level of detail from the architect with her documentation of this house meant that there were no surprises during costing and construction. There are some wonderful lessons to be learnt in this episode, none more so than the fact that great results rely on good communication between client and architect and a certain level of trust.

The architect: Virginia Kerridge

Virginia Kerridge Architect

Designed by Virginia Kerridge whose feel for domestic spaces and being able to work with a clients brief has earned her many accolades including the recent ‘Houses’ of the year award where she won top honour. This house sits well among her growing portfolio of stylish, casual and warm light filled houses.

Episode 08

St Andrews beach on the Mornington peninsula is home to the richest vein of seaside architecture in the country. This isolated strip has produced many state and national award winners. The latest creation by architect Steve Hatzellis sits well in such esteemed company.

Clad in copper, its dramatic cantilevering geometry almost knocks you over on approach. Designed for a young family, the house cleverly wraps around itself, providing shelter to a courtyard. Internally the house runs in a spiral that links levels as well as outdoor spaces.

The most impressive and engaging design idea was the use of single point perspective lines. A technique used by painters to make objects recede or standout on a canvass. Here the architect has employed this method to create an optical illusion, making the building appear bigger than it actually is.

Although this house has many athletic feats of architecture and engineering, it’s also full of clever storage tips for a growing family. In particular the way the kitchen can easily be turned into an extension of the living room by simply sliding a few doors.

It’s a robust yet beautiful home that is sure to create discussion on the power and importance of architecture.

The architect: Steve Hatzellis

Hatz Architects

Steve Hatzellis of Hatz architects is a family friend of the clients. He has taught at the AA school in London and worked in the office of Zaha Hadid arguably the world’s most progressive practice. He employs her philosophy of not using just 90 degrees in architecture when you have 360 degrees available.

Episode 09

When Duke Kahanamoku paddled out and caught a wave at Freshwater beach nearly 100 years ago he started a surfing movement that has shaped our national identity.

It’s still a pleasure to surf at this beach but it’s a privilege to live here and architects Ian Brewster and Larry Melocco have designed a classic example of beach architecture that does justice to this iconic place.

The house sits on a small site that has a dramatic outlook over the beach and ocean towards North Head. The building is designed to represent a weathered timber crate, jetsam tossed up on a rocky headland that provides a cave-like shelter below a raised viewing platform.

Its architecture refers to the rough shacks constructed on the rocks at the base of nearby headland cliffs.

Protected and secluded spaces are created by the use of highly adjustable enclosing walls and screens. An internal courtyard surrounded by concrete walls provides separation from the proximity of surrounding homes. An elevated living plane sits on steel pilotis to provide a wide view of the beach and ocean headland.

The building uses a palette of concrete, hardwood, glass and copper left in their raw state. The interior embodies a feeling of ease by layering complex finishes over raw materials to create a relaxed family home.

The architects: Ian Brewster & Larry Melocco

Brewster Hjorth Architects

Ian helped establish the firm in 1983 and has worked as Design Director since that time. In 1995 he took the role of Managing Director and changed the firms' name to Brewster Hjorth Architects. Ian maintains a strong involvement in all design work produced by the office. Larry has worked with Brewster Hjorth Architects for over 12 years. Over that time he has been responsible for a number of our large-scale projects including the Nan Tien Ssu in Wollongong, which was completed in 1995. He is also the Project Architect for most of our mid to high-rise Residential Projects.

Episode 10

The more you look at this home the more you love it. Designed by Rachel Neeson and the late Nick Murcutt, it is an exceptional example of how architecture can trigger memories.

The client had grown up in the original home built by his grandfather and the architects approach was a masterstroke: Preserve the memory of the old house in the new.

“It was like working with a ruin,” Nick said at the time. But through sensitive and creative design they kept the memory of the old house alive. The new house also slightly reoriented itself to better pick up sun angles and the principle of building in sympathy with the bush was also a driving force.

Its inner beauty is its real strength. The use and expression of concrete in concert with timber and stone create a sense of refuge.

During filming it became apparent to Peter that this was perhaps the finest example of responding to a clients’ brief he had seen “In the right hands architecture can add a fourth dimension time, taking the owners back to their childhood by triggering memories,” Peter said.

This Sandcastle stands as one of Sydney’s finest.

The architects: Rachel Neeson & Nick Murcutt

Neeson Murcutt

Neeson Murcutt is a small architectural practice that has won major awards for house design. Their designs evolve out of emerging themselves in the clients brief and especially how the building responds to the environment. Rachel Neeson following the passing of her life and professional partner Nick Murcutt is now running the practice. The firm is currently working on some larger scale projects and will continue to be a leading force in sensitive, personalised design.

Episode 11

This house is defined by the landscape that surrounds it. Beautifully designed and architecturally stunning, it follows the contours of the hilltop where it sits, to take advantage of the magnificent views of the rugged south coast and draw in the sun from all angles throughout the year.

The house is split into three sections. A central section, with the main entry which leads directly to a sand-filled courtyard and a view through to the ocean. Branching of from the courtyard one wing has a large open area with the lounge, dinning and kitchen and a sheltered deck and plunge pool. The other wing has 3 bedrooms and en suites as well as a large teenage ‘chill’ room.

The architect, Fergus Scott has referenced the natural materials found in the landscape around the site as part of the palette in designing the house. The controlled rusting of the metal sheeting that clads the house is drawn from the look of the rocks and cliffs found locally.  The rich dark painted exterior and interior walls are reflected in the dark colours of the mountains and the interior of the large granite boulders.

This is a very special house, beautifully positioned in a spectacular part of the Australian coast.

The architect: Fergus Scott

Fergus Scott Architects

After graduating from the University of Sydney, Fergus worked for architect Peter Stutchbury between 1992 and 2000. He was involved in a range of projects including the Olympic Archery Pavilion and several faculty buildings for the University of Newcastle, which won awards for solar and thermal design use. He also worked on several residential buildings over that time.

Fergus established his own practice in 2000 and has since built up a well-recognised and innovative portfolio of projects.  He likes his houses to be reflective of his clients needs and likes his buildings to engage with their surroundings. He has won numerous architectural awards over the last 10 years.



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