Surfside House
Surfside House 29 Surfside Avenue Clovelly (Sydney) NSW Australia Site Area 490 square metres Floor Area approximately 200 square metres Whales High up on the old roof, Andrew pointed out to sea. He told me that you can watch the whales on their migratory journey from here. I looked down into the seven neighbouring rear yards, then back out to the sea. How wonderful it would be to live in an inner-city beach house and watch the wilderness from it. Roof Level The roof terrace and the terrace leading from the upper main bedroom level have views out to the ocean. From these you can see out but not down onto the neighbours. An unwanted view back to the street from the roof terrace is shielded by a zinc clad screen and store. Seagulls Sydney is a coastal city with city beaches, Clovelly is one of them. Tucked in a rocky cove its protected waters are home to the large, docile Groper fish. Walk up the hills from this sheltered bush and beach and quickly you find your hair and coat caught in the same sea gusts that Sydney’s aggressive seagulls squawk down from. Upper Level The upper level is sheltered from the severe western summer sun by a self-shading, undulating wall; the curvature of its undulations intensifying as it encloses interior space. The undulations appear more pronounced as the individual untreated rough sawn cedar boards weathers differently, their graying off dependent on the intensity of the sun throughout the day. The deeply recessed penetrations within the wall that provide openings for windows to the main bedroom, ensuite and study and a slot to a main bedroom terrace, are made in the same way that I have made boats. Marine plywood components are epoxy glued and filleted together, then epoxy saturated and painted. Sun City Living From the roof, I followed Andrew down the ladder into the dark recesses of the old building to rejoin his wife, Karen. Sun rarely penetrated the old house due to its orientation away from it. Sloping down, away from the street and toward the view, previous generations of Karen’s family had tacked on sunless decks in the hope of providing some spot to enjoy the Sydney climate. However, in also facing the winter weather, they offered little in the way of amenity in any season. Living Level A timber platform extends across two thirds of the site, sheltered to the west by a three-storey stair spine, and to the east by a dense charcoal concrete block wall. The platform is lower than the street to the north, and to the south filtered views to the bush cove are provided through the library room. Dividing the north facing exterior deck and 12.5metre lap pool from the interior are sliding and folding glazed doors and shaded in the summer by the large eaves of the undulating wall and library. This living level mediates the upper parent and lower children domains and is linked to both via the stair spine. The spine, known as the ‘Coo-ee Corridor’ after the Australian method of catching another’s attention by “coo-ee-ing”, provides a logical and legible passage and link between the levels of the house. It can be a loud, family-friendly way of communicating across the three levels, both visibly and audibly. It also makes the entry and the patterns of movement throughout the house clear for visitors, the kitchen “hearth” being the first obvious point of arrival within the house. Andrew and Karen, knowing the site so intimately, knew the exact whereabouts of views. Penetrations in wall planes are located accordingly, and the walls themselves lead the eye out and beyond into the landscape. Sun City Retreat Mindful of their days at the office, in traffic, at school, even at the beach, Andrew and Karen recognized the value of a house as sanctuary. Their family has collected many many books, with the children increasingly adding to the collection. The Library and the individual sleeping areas have this attribute. Library Where wall planes become a continuously wrapping enclosure a quietening down of the environment and increased intimacy is achieved with the judicial placement of window openings and the selection of finer materials such as natural timber veneers and fabric. This occurs also on the upper and lower sleeping levels, with the upper main bedroom opening up onto its own skyline terrace and the lower children’s bedrooms opening out onto lawn and garden. Timber Boat Building (and other environmentally sustainable initiatives) Both builder and architect share a great passion for timber boat building and the detailing of this house reflects the sensitivity and delicacy yet inherent longevity and robustness of timber boat design; utilizing a joint understanding of Australian hardwoods, recycled timber and plantation grown plywood. Conscious of both the environmental and cost implications of using structural steel, engineered timber products where employed wherever practical. The site, on the side of a hill next to the beach necessitated the use of torsion piers and as a result the building is essentially a lightweight structure with masonry blades to provide bracing and stiffen the structure at its critical midpoint. The house has a sophisticated and sustainable water usage & recycling strategy. Rainwater is harvested and stored in tanks below the house. It is then used to flush all toilets in the house, provide cold water to the washing machine and for irrigation. Double-glazed windows and doors are used throughout the house to reduce direct solar gain and to insulate against heat loss. All walls, floors & ceilings are highly insulated. There is no airconditioning in the house, fans are utilised throughout for cooling and a natural gas fireplace is used to heat the house when it’s cold. And unlike timber boats, the house was completed on time and under budget. Paul Connor and Dominique Brammah


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