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South Coast House

March 23, 2009

The site is on the New South Wales south coast; the house is built amongst a spotted gum forest on a 20-hectare headland that slopes down to a small, safe and virtually private swimming beach. The owners have been involved with this area for over 50 years, spending many school holidays at friends’ houses. They […]

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The site is on the New South Wales south coast; the house is built amongst a spotted gum forest on a 20-hectare headland that slopes down to a small, safe and virtually private swimming beach. The owners have been involved with this area for over 50 years, spending many school holidays at friends’ houses. They purchased the land more than 20 years ago, camping at first, before a collection of temporary huts were purchased from the Water Board and positioned around a clearing to create a more permanent campsite.

There is public access along the first 30 metres of the waterfront, so privacy, potential for vandalism of the unoccupied buildings and bushfires were a concern. The brief for the new house was to maintain the feeling of a campsite.

The building is composed of six modules, oriented to the north-east and positioned to allow glimpses of the water. A small offshore island in the bay provides the focus for the view. The negative spaces between the modules are interesting and are used for various purposes. Rammed earth walls define the project and provide protection.

The house is a holiday home to a family of six and their many friends who visit. The occupant numbers vary from one to many, and the spine wall divides the house into two sections to avoid an empty feeling of a partially occupied house. The bedroom buildings can be altered to different configurations depending on the number of guests.

An art room is situated above a subterranean service area accessed directly from the beach entrance area. The modules are prefabricated and steel-framed, on concrete slabs. A system of three sliding panels of stainless wire mesh, glass and fibre cement fire shutters protects the openings. All bathrooms are external to the bedrooms and wide eaves provide shelter for the access ways.

A small palette of materials has been used – natural galvanised steel (zinc), zinc roof, and zinc cappings to the earth walls. The floors are polished concrete divided by zinc strips. The external paving is concrete and various size pebbles have been used to form a transition from the inside to the rougher textures for external areas.

Up lighting has been used throughout to avoid any glare and to allow the sky to be seen clearly. The use of sealed plaster has avoided the need to paint surfaces, but where paint has been used the colour palette of the forest has been used.

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