Strait-talking style

Looking bass strait squarely in the eye, this holiday house bears tibrent of salt spray, sun, rain, and southwesterlies. Designed by dawson tanner architects, it has been given a robust street facade and look get to weather the elements gracefully.

FOR THIS HOUSE, tucked in behind the scrub-covered sand dunes along Victoria’s rugged Bellarine Peninsula, easy maintenance and durability were always going to be a priority for the owners. The front of the property is skewed towards the southwesterlies blowing in from Bass Strait, and the rear faces the northern sun. You only have to look around at the wind-deformed trees to gauge the ferocity of the conditions!

The clients asked Dawson Tanner Architects to design a four-bedroom holiday house that would be easy to live in, easy to keep clean — and just as easy to lock up and leave for periods at a time. The house serves as a relaxing base for extended holidays: in the distant future it may become the family’s permanent residence.

The clients required a guest wing for when other family members come to stay, an open dining/living area (with separate study/playroom) and an extensive outdoor entertainment area. To meet these requirements, the architect arranged the rooms so that the family bedrooms are on a separate floor to the living areas, and the guest quarters are separated from the communal living spaces. To achieve this, the front entrance and a short hallway leading from it do double duty as a visual and acoustic buffer.

While the street elevation is severe, the V-shaped dwelling is open to the north, with the deck and adjacent family room designed for year round comfort. This north facing aspect is dominated by rows of windows on both levels.

In winter, heating is provided by the sun, which streams through the entire living area, and is aided by the heated concrete slab floor and an internal blockwork wall which acts as a thermal storage wall. In summer, the ground floor windows are shaded and protected by the upper floor, which cantilevers over the living area. The cantilevered curved roof, in turn, shades the upper storey bedroom windows.

The wall of glazing in the main living area opens to axial and curved landscape elements leading out to the boundaries of the property. A long path made from railway sleepers visually continues the horizontal lines of the rough-sawn weathered feature walls. In contrast, the timber deck finishes in a graceful curve creating an enclosure partially embedded in the lawn by way of a shallow retaining wall — a cosy spot for outdoor living.

Facing the street, the house appears to have thrown up an impenetrable shield against the winds coming off the Strait. Here, there are few openings in the severe fortress-like facade of rugged, radially-sawn, stringybark cladding and rendered cement sheeting. Windows are generally high-positioned narrow slots, and the landscaping has been pared down to a restrained arrangement of straight paths, ground cover and gravel. The house has been sited as close as possible to the street to ensure maximum space in the more sheltered rear yard.

With its back and shoulders firmly set against the elements, this dwelling has been shaped to form a cosy enclave for the clients and their young children. Its rugged, no-nonsense exterior will weather with dignity, while the protected north-facing zone will provide a sheltered spot for relaxation and play in all seasons.

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