Creating Shelter – Canadian Bay Cabin by Wolveridge Architects
Mount Eliza, VIC, Australia

Photography Derek Swalwell
Words Rose Onans

Nestled on the crest of a gentle bluff overlooking Canadian Bay in Mount Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula, Wolveridge Architects’ Canadian Bay Cabin is a home that defies expectation yet is grounded in the primal imperative of providing shelter.

“When the clients, Brett and Lea, first came to us in 2016, they were keen to renovate the existing dwelling rather than knock it down,” says Jerry Wolveridge. “We canvassed the idea of a modernist home and I recall informing the clients that, for a building to make the most of its site and to maximise the potential for views, it must be allowed to push and pull around the site and not be restricted by traditional thinking, symmetry or the like.” As a result, the decision was made to demolish the existing house and start afresh with a design for a two-storey modernist home.

The project employs textured and muted tones that enable the building, regardless of its shape and appearance, to develop a relationship with the surrounding native coastal dune.
The interior of the Canadian Bay Cabin is a peaceful and protected interior realm that balances a sense of shelter with the panoramic ocean views.

Canadian Bay Cabin is first and foremost defined by the site, and while the outcome is clearly a response to this context, it is by no means a typical coastal home. The rare proximity to the beach, enhanced by the planning scheme which allowed a zero setback to the foreshore, provides exceptional panoramic views of the water, however, the architecture gives equal priority to creating a sense of protection and shelter appropriate to a climate of extremes. The result is a home that, while outsized by traditional cabin standards, captures many of the essential elements of a cabin typology.

The clients brought their builder, Andrew Pope, to the project. Jerry says, “Andrew played an important role during the design process as a sounding board for the client.”

Jerry explains, “for such an exposed piece of land, this building feels like a protective haven to our clients.” A robust material palette of timber and concrete is adopted both inside and out, while marine-grade, powder-coated aluminum sheet clads the ocean-facing elevations and protect the building from the harsh, salty environment and driving weather. The ‘quiet’, highly-insulated building envelope creates a calm, protective interior and a combination of timber ceiling and floor with predominantly glass and darkened wall elements contribute to the notion of the project as a cabin. “Possibly the largest cabin we’ve ever seen,” Jerry reflects, “but a cabin all the same.”

The project embraces the raw materiality of concrete and balances it with marble, timber and polished plaster to create a warm and sophisticated interior.
Light is an important element in the design, with skylights positioned to dramatically highlight certain moments within the space.
Dark internal finishes contribute to drawing the eyes out, towards the light, further increasing the sense of connection with the exterior.

The interior embraces the rawness of concrete while balancing the robust materiality with timber, polished plaster and marble to create an atmosphere of warmth, opulence and sophistication that contribute to a peaceful sense of refuge. Light is treated “with importance,” Jerry says, “whilst this home responds to the panoramic views of the water, we created and framed reflective garden views that also bring light to the deeper parts of the floor plan. Shafts of light via skylights are reflected on and around curved, burnished surfaces like concrete and polished plaster, bringing a sense of warmth to the internal spaces.”

“For such an exposed piece of land, this building feels like a protective haven to our clients.”

Generous overhangs and sheltered external spaces were carefully planned during the design process in response to both the prevailing winds that impact the site and the strong western sun that would heat west-facing glazing in summer. While the client expressed a “natural wish to build a deck all along the western side of the building to enjoy the view,” Jerry explains that “we proposed to avoid it on the basis that it would be commonly unusable and, instead, we proposed two outdoor spaces – one on the north overlooking the pool and a second on the east, both linked. A range of covered and uncovered entertaining spaces act as an oversized verandah, also providing visual links back to the property garden.”

Canadian Bay Cabin intersects purposefully with the site.
The form is inspired partly by the modernist home architect Jerry Wolveridge grew up in as a child in Mount Eliza.

This responsiveness to site is felt in the way the building rejects typical formal gestures, rather, Jerry describes how the “sinewy, organic forms of the Cabin merge with angles and orthogonal shapes to resolve the plan.” The structure hugs the site, its movement responding to the angles of the views and need for protection from the sea winds. This bold response was also influenced by the architect’s experience growing up in Mount Eliza and living in a mid-century modernist coastal home. “I feel that having my childhood in this local area had a great impact on how we approached this and other projects we have undertaken in Mount Eliza,” Jerry says. “One strong recollection of my childhood house was that it really thrust itself into the garden, or brought the garden in.” This characteristic is present in the confidence with which the Canadian Bay Cabin intersects with the site, the structure creating a purposeful and direct interaction with the landscape.

The interior embraces the rawness of concrete while balancing the robust materiality with timber.

In two distinct references, those of modernist design and the traditional cabin, the Canadian Bay Cabin finds a strong identity that is shaped by the site for which it has been created. Bold and sculptural in form, yet deferential to the native landscape in materiality, open in aspect yet protective in function, the Cabin defies the expected and the predictable to create a balanced, considered and ambitious architectural response to the coastal site.

Published 8 October, 2019
Photography  Derek Swalwell
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