Sandstone salvage for brave new house

28 Nov 2011

Projecting from a cliff face overlooking Chinaman's Beach, this project is significant in its complex site constraints

The Chinaman's Beach House is situated on a northeast facing site overlooking Chinaman's Beach and Sydney Heads. The site is a recovered sandstone quarry, steeply raised from historic mining activity. The initial idea for the site was a series of platforms stepping down the site, enclosing courtyards for protection and opening up to the north-east aspect and view.

This idea developed into the creation of two copper-clad curved volumes which enclose the internal areas, while the copper wall protected these spaces from the southern aspect and created privacy for the home. The open edges of these curved walls reveal the north view and the closed walls contain small apertures which frame particular views over the site and the harbour.

The client's initial brief was to design a house inspired by two evocative paintings by Sydney artist Joshua Yeldham. The paintings form part of an extensive art collection that has been woven into the design of the house. Entering from the top, the main stair void becomes a gallery as you circulate through it and the inside of the two curved walls offer expansive hanging space.

These two curved volumes sit on a sandstone podium, carved from the salvaged sandstone from the site, with 'balistraria' windows which frame views over the garden and Chinaman's Beach. This podium houses a cellar and guest area. The space between these two volumes creates internal protective courtyards over two levels facing north.

This central courtyard served to let filtered light penetrate deep into the house and also connect all of the areas of the house by a sculptural timber stair. These courtyards also serve to connect the linear pool located on the north of the house, within the sandstone podium. The materiality of the house is purposely restrained, with a palette of copper, salvaged sandstone and recycled blackbutt north facades and windows.

The house is entered via a glass volume which faces both the view to the east and the rock escarpment to the south, while the side walls of this volume serve as gallery walls. The entrance idea is conceived as a sequence of views between Sydney Heads, the rock escarpment and the artwork of the gallery walls.

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