Architecture: Narrabeen House

Mar 9, 2010
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Photography by Simon Whitbread
  • Designer
  • Architect Choi Ropiha

The Narrabeen House exploits the dynamics of its location (Narrabeen Lagoon to one side, unremarkable suburban street on the other) to pursue the notion of the ‘suburban dream’.

From the street, the house’s functional composition is typically suburban – driveway, entrance, bedroom and garage. The impact of these elements is diffused, however, by melding them into a singular architectural expression clad in dark timber.

With a stealth-like presence in the street, the composition withholds the drama of the lagoon beyond and sets up two key planning strategies. Firstly, a central courtyard becomes the principal organising element with all key living spaces grouped around it, connecting these spaces visually and physically to create a socially inclusive core with extended spatial opportunities. The courtyard also brings sun, light and air into the centre of the house while retaining privacy from the street.

Secondly, the planning is composed to progressively isolate the occupants from the neighbourhood to heighten the sense of oasis and privacy. From the street, visitors arrive through a succession of exterior spaces that gradually compress spatially to withdraw the street context. The sequence builds to a doorway where, unexpectedly, one arrives in the courtyard where the full extent of the private domain, the lagoon and island are revealed.
The cross sectional arrangement is elevated to safeguard against flooding while volumes are composed to give spaces dual aspects – north for sun and south for view. This combination enables a multi-level relationship between interior and exterior living spaces to be established, where views are framed and layered with foreground and distant elements.

The materiality develops the notion of oasis with a simple calming palette of warm natural materials that have a beneficial environmental effect while connecting the house with the natural environment of the lagoon and island.

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