This is a house of its context. A house of its environment. A house of its section. A house with a native roof garden as its primary elevation, and a sculptural skylight as its primary interface.

Project Name: Bundeena Beach house
Studio Name: Grove Architects
Location: Bundeena, Australia
Photography: Michael Nicholson
Project size: 265 m2
Site size: 538 m2
Completion date: 2018
Building levels: 2

Bundeena Beach house by Grove Architects - Sheet1
Living Room ©Michael Nicholson

A house with a playful interaction between inside and outside, public and private. Perched on a rocky headland at the end of a beach, adjoining the public access-way, this was a unique location, one that demanded a high level of sensitivity and good citizenship. It demanded a house that was socially and environmentally responsible, that was as much about what it gives to the community, as what it gives to its occupants. Set low into the slope, the house presents its roof as its primary elevation to the street.

Conceived as a native garden, the roof announces the house to the community, connecting the street with the water and expanding the adjacent public reserve. A sculptural skylight emerging from the roof garden, glowing at night, signals the house beneath, drawing sunlight inside, and connecting the inside out, encouraging a playful interaction with the sun’s movement as it tracks across the white internal walls, creating an ever-changing artwork of light and patterns within the house. Beneath its roof, the house is conceived as an object in its landscape, viewed from the street, beach, and water.

A corten sleeping box emerges from the hill, floating above a glass living box, intersected by a timber multi-purpose box. Clearly articulated, each box is clad in a single durable material, selected in response to the coastal location. With fixed perforated corten screens to the sleeping box windows, and a fixed pergola to the glass box living, operable shading elements are minimised to reduce maintenance in the corrosive coastal environment. Set in, and under, a native garden, and running alongside a public reserve, the house abandons the notion of the fence, dissolving the boundaries between the public and private realms, improving the environment of both the reserve and the house.

Bundeena Beach house by Grove Architects - Sheet2
Kitchen+Dining Space ©Michael Nicholson

Defying the complex contours, the building form is resolved into only two levels. Despite entering at the upper bedroom level, by organising the arrival to occur at the void/skylight, the house immediately explains itself, providing clear, intuitive circulation. The lower level remains connected to the entry and roof through the void/skylight, while opening directly onto a native garden with expansive water views. The house serves to connect the inhabitants with the landscape beneath and beyond, while engaging them with the transience of the environment surrounding them.

It harnesses that environment for light, breeze, heat, power and water, while protecting the occupants from the harshness of its elements. Simultaneously the house serves the local community, gifting to the street a roof garden, a sculptural skylight, and a rare and valuable connection with the environment, beach and water beyond. The house does not attempt to relate to its built context

. Instead it stands in contrast to the wall of garages, providing a moment of relief in the street. With its low set form, public facing garden roof, and open site boundaries, it connects the street with the environment, beach and water beyond. With its primary view to the west, and little northern exposure, this was an environmentally challenging site. The large skylight and void addresses the orientation, enabling day-long solar penetration.

Bundeena Beach house by Grove Architects - Sheet3
Exterior View ©Michael Nicholson

The butterfly shape restricts penetration to strategically oriented, vertical triangular panes, preventing overheating, while encouraging a playful interaction with the sun’s movement. Controlled openings with fixed perforated screens to the upper level windows, and a pergola to the lower level, provide protection from the western sun.

In additional to its ecological benefits, the green roof reduces heat absorption and increases insulation. Collected rainwater is recycled for irrigation, while a sixteen panel 5.7kW photovoltaic system and Tesla battery, envisioned as a linear reflection pond within the roof garden, provides all the owner’s electricity needs.

Combining PVs with highly efficient heat pump technology, the house is gas-free, with PVs providing all electricity, hot water, heating, cooling and cooking needs. Despite its technical credentials, through the use of sound passive design, low maintenance materials, and PVs integrated into the landscaped roof, the design hopes to provide an example of understated environmental performance.


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