Burridge Read Residence

December 21, 2010

David Boyle Architect’s transformation of a beach house in New South Wales features a sophisticated interior, hidden within a modest envelope.

For the house, more than for any other building type, the plan is the generator of quality – the plan is the basis for its functionality, environmental performance and much of its architectural success. Situated on the New South Wales central coast, the Burridge Read Residence is a reworking of an unloved, developer-built beach house from the 1990s. It is more than just a stylish and contemporary alteration, however, and it is the plan that underlies its quality, exhibiting a sophistication of form and geometry that calls to mind wider themes in architecture. As a result, the house possesses an unusual richness of experience in a comparatively modest envelope.

The owners lived in the original house for a number of years before they commissioned David Boyle to rework it. It was originally a themed structure, with prow-shaped ends and an awkward 45-degree geometry. Its northern half, containing the usual linked living/dining/kitchen and an oddly shaped master bedroom, was demolished down to the floor structure. For economy, the southern half, containing two bedrooms and a bathroom and set a metre or so above, was retained in its entirety, pyramid roof and meranti joinery included.

The site is rectilinear to the east and projects in a long slice to the west, with the diagonal front boundary parallel to the road. This angle, unrecognised by the original building, has been the inspiration for the new plan. An entirely new wing, long and thin, is set parallel to the front boundary and extends as far as the setbacks would allow. The angles of the original house and the northern boundary slice this form off at either end. It accommodates a new master suite and a study, as well as an entry and stairs. The former living/bedroom wing has been reconstructed to house a generous flow of living, dining, kitchen and sunroom. Together, the two wings form an open boomerang shape – facing north and trapping the sun while capturing the water views. Between the arms of the boomerang is a stepped deck, the heart of any beach house if it is properly designed and oriented, with a barbecue and a hot tub, half roofed and half open.

The new building, with a seemingly effortless expertise, transforms the original design’s quasi- symmetrical angles into a subtle and elegant play of shifting intersecting volumes, in which symmetry is suggested and at the same time denied.

The twin curved ends of the new front wing, externally similar, are developed internally in quite different ways and on different floor levels. The bathroom to the west is an open space flowing into the adjoining bedroom with a continuous window and even a continuous curtain. The elevated study to the east is a hermetic space, enveloped in timber and shelving. Slightly off-centre, the entry faces a sweep of glass to the view, but denies immediate access to the deck beyond. Instead, one must explore the spaces east or west along the northern wall.

The original living wing has been deconstructed, with the reclad 45-degree ‘prow’ to the east wrapped into the kitchen space as a cosy sunroom and the formerly symmetrical western end rebuilt entirely as the fireplace.

At a much reduced scale, the overall result is like one of those ancestral English country houses, where an intact mediaeval core is ‘regularised’ with a symmetrical Classical pavilion across the front, old towers and chimneys projecting above the long flat line of the new roof. Here, the new front wing is similarly low and horizontal, and the older bedroom pavilion with its tall roof sits unaltered to one side.

Another sophistication unexpected in such a small house is the way the spaces, generally rectilinear, are defined by smaller-scaled curves. Again a Classical analogy can be made – in Greek mouldings, the curved parts are always separated with a flat fillet. Here, long sweeps of wall or glass are punctuated by a projection of curved wall at key points, separating the spaces and articulating the circulation through the house. Between the entry and the living room is a projecting curved element that divides the long glass walls, recalling the ends of the new front pavilion and giving enclosure and privacy to the two spaces.

Unconventionally, the kitchen faces the ‘wrong’ way – in most instances where a kitchen is designed around an island bench, the cook faces the windows with a wall of cupboards behind. Here, however, the wall of cupboards and fridge has replaced one of the water-facing windows, and the cook faces the rear wall. The benefit is that the often-intrusive volume of service space is hidden, and the long back wall of the space can flow seamlessly across the entire volume. This planning further heightens the drama of the views, giving a special quality to the north-east facing slot of sunroom with its generous window seat.

The new work has been carried out in a contemporary manner in timber and fibre cement, all left to weather. Internally, the sheeting is plasterboard painted in subtle curves and fields, emphasising the geometry and recalling a play of shadow across its surfaces. This device enables different colours to be used for various spaces and planes – avoiding an all-white palette. The detail is well-resolved and appropriate, giving vibrancy and richness to the often spare architecture.

This is a mature and inventive work, sitting comfortably in its setting. It creates, through modest means, an environment of relaxed delight.

  • Lindsay Johnston December 22nd, 2010 4:54 am

    Well done David i the house looks great, look forward to seeing it some day. Nice to see more Newcastle graduates doing good work. LJ

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