This house acts as an optical instrument, a series of devices that frame views beyond the abutting foreshore to the Heads of Port Phillip Bay. The most significant promenade through the site, and house itself, takes you from the street along a gently stepped path to the entry stair which then elevates you sufficiently to appreciate the view as you arrive at the uppermost level. The experience on entry is private and cocooned from the exterior. Once above, the views expand and are focus on the horizon of the ocean to the south. The careful choreography of this sequence is amplified by the materiality of timber in various species and detail.
A challenge for Victorian coastal houses is to reconcile the southern views with northern solar orientation. In this instance, a courtyard has been introduced to gain northern aspect to the living spaces and to capture the afternoon sun within an environment shielded from the strong southerlies.
The contrast between the harshness of the external environment and the sophisticated interior that wraps itself around the courtyard is represented in the timbers selected for each application.
Externally the house explores the nature, colour and detailing of Spotted Gum hardwood. Solid cladding and decking is combined with delicate layers of screens and shutters that passively shade glazing and provide privacy. The ‘timber hedge’ that greets the visitor on arrival to the house is at once dense and permeable, carefully crafted, and softly weathering. The timber has a penetrating oil finish that will allow it to weather gracefully over time in response to its environment, requiring minimal maintenance.
The interior, by contrast, is predominantly coloured by a lighter hardwood, blackbutt and finished to a high level. The material is used throughout the interior, from the solid strip flooring and stair to the veneer that covers much of the joinery, including the study. Here, the material is wrapped overhead as a ceiling to provide the study with a sense of enclosure within the open plan of the first floor.
Tasmanian oak window frames were preferred for their better thermal properties and lower embodied energy as well as the warmth they lend the interior.