Cera Stribley Architects
Portsea, VIC, Australia
Australian beach houses sometimes inevitably end up becoming more effort than a house in town to manage, but this design sets out to live up to a truly laid-back holiday aspiration. Seeking to adhere to a minimal aesthetic genre, the clients wanted to create a sophisticated, textural house with a rich materiality that wasn’t overwhelming or fussy.
Cera Stribley Architects designed the Robinson House for a busy business couple with teenage children. The clients were also quite specific with their functional brief and with an elevated and relatively open and level site to work with, this house is all about orientation and creating areas for living in at different times of the day. The foundation of the architecture was to create two rectangular forms perpendicular to one another to allow circulation around and between the forms.
The first floor, a black timber lined box and the lower rectilinear form created by intersecting in-situ concrete walls with timber, creates pockets of the house with contrasting atmospheres depending on materiality and the time of day, whilst fulfilling the owners desire to have materials that would age gracefully and compliment their personal art and object collections.
The familys’ beach home needed to accommodate up to 12 members of family and friends at any time, but rather than having a rabbit warren of rooms and halls, cleverly the bedrooms are located all off the main hall on the ground floor hidden away privately behind a timber batten joinery wall, allowing them all to have a garden outlook through their sliding doors opening up to the lawn and pool on the north side.
Envisioned for retreating from the midday sun, a sunken lounge on the ground floor provides that refuge, the concrete mass keeping the entire lower floor cool and shaded by the second living room structure above. With its outlook to the pool, the sunken lounge is a little bit retro, but is cosy with a fireplace for in the cooler months, it is easily able to respond to the malleable nature of modern family life on holiday no matter what time of year.
Contrasting this level, the more relaxed upstairs living room, kitchen, outdoor dining and hidden master are all housed in the oak lined black box above, overlooking the garden, and treetops of Portsea. The master bedroom also has its own outdoor bathtub, which in the afternoon, it is tempting to take a long soak in the shelter of shadows cast by the external shutters.
The massive slider doors across the east and west facades allow for full cross ventilation in the summertime, air-conditioning is seldom switched on and a large open fireplace keeps the area warm in winter. With the Australian sun being so bright, the ambiance created by light bouncing off the timber interior is so much more subdued, natural and more relaxing.
Light is harnessed within this house, visually amalgamating and highlighting the raw elements of the interior within the context of its site. With a decidedly minimal palette focusing on raw concrete, timber and steel; attention is diverted to the shadows cast from skylight mullions and the large eucalypt in the east. These cast artistic geometric patterns which extend and fuse the houses exterior into the interior. The shifting direction of the sun and fall of these shadows animate the architecture, signifying the spirit of the house, and further relating it to the life of the outside world.