SEVEN HUNDRED KILOMETRES southeast of Perth, lapped by the rolling sands of the Nullarbor Plain on one side and the Southern Ocean on the other, Esperance is remote indeed from the urban centres usually associated with cutting-edge architecture. But among the brick motels and old holiday beach shacks, Troppo Architects have left their mark with one of their most recent residential projects.
With offices in Darwin, Townsville, Perth and Adelaide, Troppo have gained international recognition as the designers of a ‘regional’ architecture associated with Australia’s north and west. Their award-winning designs work with the particular climates of these areas, emphasising natural lighting and ventilation, heat reduction and protection from the elements. The house at Esperance fits into this philosophy with its open spaces and protective coverings. Its pitched roof and corrugated verandahs also have connotations of the Australian shed tradition, a familiar reference point in Troppo designs.
The house was designed as a combination residence and office for the managers of the adjacent holiday apartments (also by Troppo). It needed to complement the existing apartments, while at the same time retaining a separate identity as a private residence.
The moderate climate of the region allowed for an open structure which could be shut down during inclement weather and opened up during finer weather. However, the seaside site was also exposed to strong winds, so the house had to have protective qualities as well.
The house was constructed from lightweight materials to fit in with the informal holiday atmosphere of the town. Steel construction with pine infill has allowed the frame to be kept as light as possible, while galvanising and bolted connections ensure that it is protected from the corrosive effects of the sea air. Inside the house, the steel frame is painted black and exposed in places, reinforcing the delicate nature of the structure.
Despite the lightness of its frame, the house is sturdy enough to withstand the ocean winds. Durable Shadowclad was selected for the exterior walls and painted light grey to complement the bright blues of the adjacent apartments. In keeping with the seaside tone, the colour was inspired by the hues of fading seaweed.
The building’s design and orientation has provided for alternative outdoor living areas depending on prevailing conditions. The open deck to the north is protected from winter winds, while solar access is gained through an open slatted pergola. The front verandah allows opportunity to open up the living area to the outside during calmer, warmer conditions.
The house has been constructed as two double-storey pavilions linked by a transparent zone incorporating the stairs. The front pavilion contains the living areas, with a separate flat to accommodate visitors in the lower level. It faces the sea and provides fantastic views of Esperance Bay. The rear pavilion contains bedrooms and bathrooms in the upper level and the carport, laundry and store below.
The main living areas on the upper level are contained within a long, open plan room. It has windows at each end to let a cooling breeze flow through, and opens onto a covered deck.
This commitment to using natural resources is typical of Troppo’s philosophy. Successfully working within specific climates, they continue to produce buildings which are both highly practical and uniquely beautiful.