Woods Bagot designs a concrete and limestone house anchored to the Australian coast
Australian beach houses are often synonymous with being lightweight, touching the ground ever so lightly. Yet a new house at Flinders, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, is at the other end of the spectrum. Tidal Arc House is monumental and anchored firmly to its escarpment. Water ebbs and flows below, exposing large reefs at its tidal point. ‘With such epic geographical and lunar-influenced movements, the idea of a traditional timber-clad cottage seemed insensitive, almost irresponsible when looking at this heroic topographical context,’ says architect Nik Karalis, CEO of Woods Bagot.
Designed as a permanent home, rather than as a weekender, the brief given to Woods Bagot was to capture the 270 degree views from Mushroom Reef to Phillip Island. Also on the ‘whiteboard’ were elevated living areas, along with three guest bedrooms in addition to a main bedroom suite. Deliberately dark and moody, the house features a concrete and limestone exterior that conceals dark-stained oak and solid brass detailing inside. Charcoal timber, ash grey marble and brass used for the interior, designed by Hecker Guthrie, acts as a protective shell for what can be harsh Australian sunlight.
Although this striking home appears to have found a natural position on its slope, like a snail coming to rest, every design for its location was analysed to the nth degree. ‘The complexity of adjoining neighbours, restrictions of existing covenants and the ever-changing patterns of tidal movement and light were crucial considerations,’ says Karalis.
At one level, the Tidal Arc house is majestic and in tune with the sensitive coastal landscape. But it also has its own ‘voice’, with the fracturing of the two curved volumes precariously stacked on top of each other like sheared basalt plates. The gymnastic arrangement of the geometry also allows full exposure to these unique coastal views. ‘It is a majestic response to the landscape, but the scale is also intimate,’ says Karalis, pointing out the beautifully chiselled spaces, each one finely honed. §