A wooden box in the bush

31 Mar 2011

Sally Draper Architects designs a timber retreat nestled in the bush

The Westernport House is located on a treed cliff top site overlooking Westernport Bay. It celebrates the idea of retreat, relaxation and ‘a simpler life’ for a busy Melbourne family, their relatives and friends. The house is developed as an abstract sculpture of layered rectangular forms and planes. On the street side, they overlap to provide a protective, secretive outer skin to the house. To the rear the simple rectangular forms are carved out to create a series of courtyards and deck spaces, enmeshing the internal and external environments.

The dichotomy between the controlled street elevation and the more sculpted northern aspect of the house reflects the client’s dual aspirations: a desire for privacy and seclusion and a welcoming, inclusive and generous environment expressive of their Italian cultural background. An outdoor kitchen, pizza oven and covered deck allow for wine bottling and the annual cooking of tomato sauce from the crops grown in the garden. Whilst functioning well for large groups of family and friends the house is also comfortable for just a couple, its zoning and configuration allowing it to be both large and intimate at different times.

The idea of the hearth as a symbol of ‘a simpler life’ and of ‘home’ is explored throughout the house and site. A robust textured stone fireplace wall defines the living zone, dual fireplaces (one a barbecue) and the pizza oven frame the outdoor kitchen deck, and a stone firepit overlooks the beach in a more remote corner of the site. The house provides an intentionally calm and still backdrop to the activity within, the raw, earthy palette of timber, steel and stone enriching the composition with a tactile sense of texture and craft.

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