Protection from the Elements - Bellbird Retreat by Steendyk
Bellbird Reserve, QLD, Australia
Taking inspiration from the bountiful landscape reserve it sits amongst, Bellbird Retreat by Steendyk is an idyllic weekend retreat near Brisbane that responds to the site’s adjacent bountiful land to inform the resulting materiality and form.
Beautifully located within Bellbird Reserve, the like-named retreat is designed as an urban escape from the city of Brisbane. The land the structure that it is positioned upon inherently informed Steendyk’s approach to site. Modest in size and scale, the retreat is envisioned as a space where the visitors experience can have many interpretations, and is intended to encourage a dialogue between a human-built structure and the natural environment.
Beautifully located within Bellbird Reserve, the like-named retreat is designed as an urban escape from the city of Brisbane.
The structure sits atop a sloped elevation, with intended directional views to the landscape beyond. Like many Australian rural bush settings, the area is heavily susceptible to bushfires and a conscious effort was made to ensure that every decision in terms of structure, materiality and planning was a direct and respectful response to this bushfire-prone environment.
The land the structure that it is positioned upon inherently informed Steendyk’s approach to site.
The splaying roof structure is comprised of a non-combustible steel roof that was also treated in such a way as to encourage the natural weathering and patina process over time. The roof is positioned on a series of textured brick walls, sitting as blades in space, and twists as it rotates around the façade, as a response to the topography of the land. As the structure and roofline rise up toward the nearby mountains, it lifts up to open toward the views beyond.
This emphasis on the exterior, and the deliberate purposed guiding of the eye in one direction, is obvious in all aspects of this design. Internally, the palette is purposefully restricted, with durable and low-maintenance selections of timber flooring, exposed brickwork, timber clad walls, ceilings and joinery and the optimisation of the views, through the use of full-height glass. There is honesty in the decision not to conceal the surfaces, and the expression of them, tuning into the retreat’s surrounds.
The structure sits atop a sloped elevation, with intended directional views to the landscape beyond.
Key to the success of designing for such a remote and tranquil location is the ability not to rely on urban conveniences. Sustainable features such as rainwater and electricity harvesting were therefore extremely vital, along with more obvious design decisions to ensure the building mass and orientation were utilised to ensure a sense of comfort throughout the year.
This highlights that, at the core of Steendyk’s approach, is a sensibility to Bellbird Retreat’s rural setting and infusion of an appropriate response into the dwelling design. This has resulted in a sense of protection from the elements, and a respectful insertion amongst them.