Text by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects
Bendalong Beach House is a home for a retired couple on the South Coast. It is a welcoming, casual beach house, respectful of the laid back nature of the community and designed to easily accommodate visiting family and friends. A humble, single level living pavilion on the street side draws on the simplicity of surrounding beach houses, many of which were owner built over the years.
Connection to the garden and landscape was imperative to the design. Kangaroos literally inhabit the house. The structural system is exposed and honest. Operable screens allow for the control of privacy and when the whole house is opened up it almost disappears, evoking the social mood of camping. The house is in a bushfire rated area and as the photographs depict almost all the surrounding bush burnt in recent fires.
Bendalong Beach house is raw, honest and simple in presentation. As with all apparently simple things an immense amount of care went into perfecting many design iterations and finessing the precision of details.
We wanted people to be able to understand the structure, for the architecture to be humble and unsuperfluous. This was intended to bring a sense of calm and authenticity to the spaces. Connection to site and place was the paramount concern and the architecture was to disappear into the landscape from inside and out.
The concrete slab is the finished floor, the steel columns support the roof with a visible and comprehensible structural system. Operable Timber screens sit between the glass line and perimeter columns providing both a buffer for privacy and protection from the elements. When the house is completely opened up there is almost nothing – the feeling is of a camp site or being under a simple lean-to roof.
Bendalong is a coastal town south of Sydney. It has one access road and beaches either side of the headland. It is an easy-going area with no front fences and many old holiday shacks and houses. We wanted to be respectful of the casual coastal appeal and kept the living pavilion single storey and low to the street. The front garden is grassed and given over to the public realm.
The inquiry into privacy in the house is interesting. Screens and planting ensure that it can be manipulated to suit the mood, weather and user, however on the whole the house has a very open and public feel – like a campsite – people just wander in for a chat and feel comfortable doing so.
Bedrooms are located in a rear wing which is barely visible from the street. Unusual Shoalhaven planning controls allowed us to push the bulk to the back of the site and keep the street presentation modest and single storey, reminiscent of the older holiday homes in the area.
The house employs all possible passive solar design principles. The bulk is pushed to the southern side of the site allowing the garden to face north. It has a concrete floor which acts as a heat sink, eaves to all sides and screens to manage eastern and western sun. Every room has good cross ventilation and materials are sustainably and locally sourced where possible, including the timber kitchen bench and ply elements. There are PV cells, a grass driveway and extensive planting integrated with the architecture.
The house was built for my parents. It was relatively low budget and intended as a holiday home. Since completion they have moved in permanently, they love being there, which is the greatest complement a child or architect could receive.
Timber screens were intended to play on the surrounding gum trees and blend into the bush setting. Sadly the whole of Bendalong burnt in a raging fire over the New Year period. The house, built to BAL 19, survived but all the trees are now black and bare.
Photos by Stephen Kent Johnson