A secluded escape made of concrete, terrazzo and teak offers a fresh point of view
It’s hard to imagine anything but the Block House sitting in its place overlooking the sea. This residence was tailor-made for its secluded spot on the beach, and the natural environment was key to unlocking the inspiration behind it.
Designed by a team of architects (Andre Porebski, Caomhan Murphy, Alex Porebski and Irene Sheridan-Miller) from Sydney firm Porebski Architects, this wasn’t the first rodeo for the architect and homeowners. “This was the second house at Pearl Beach we did for this client,” says Alex. “The first house was part of a duplex with shared facilities.” When a site came up for sale down the street, the clients didn’t hesitate to snap it up to add to their Pearl Beach residential collection.
Starting with a practically blank slate — minus the single-storey weatherboard shack — the designers had to make the most of the 670m² parcel of land. “The client wanted a low-maintenance house similar to the existing one; they liked the concrete block finish in particular,” says Alex. The house would be used as a second family home from Thursday to Monday, so it was important the residence provided plenty of room for the clients and their dog. Filled with all the necessities, the home features three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a study/sewing room, family room, outdoor area, kitchen, basement garage and media room.
Taking cues from the pristine environment of Pearl Beach, a façade and interior that slotted into place was high on the agenda for the team. “Contextually, the house relates to the sandstone cliffs and caves of the surrounding headlands and heavy waves on the beach, which in turn influence the form and materiality of the building,” says Alex. “A simple palette of materials requiring minimal maintenance and finishes, along with precision in detailing, create the light sensibility of the structure.”
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. As the house encroached on the predicted 2089 sea erosion line, it needed specialised engineering to comply with council regulations. “The house required deep piling 7 metres below the water table so the house would stand still should the sand ever erode below,” says Alex.
The word on everyone’s lips right now is sustainability, and the Block House has a few eco tricks up its sleeve. The integration of sliding timber shutters and cavity sliding windows allow the home to be opened up or closed off — a highlight of the project for Alex. “The house has the ability to peel back the layers to suit the use/time of day,” he says. “The courtyard receives sun all day, allows solar access to all parts of the house and is protected from the afternoon winds.”
Other sustainability considerations include geothermal heating and cooling, rainwater harvesting, low-E double glazing and sub-floor ventilation. “One of the clients’ favourite sustainability features is the geothermal heating and cooling,” says Alex. “Due to the close proximity to the water table, pipes were inserted into the sand so they could be in constant contact with water that generally doesn’t drop below 18 degrees Celsius. This means the water flowing through the pipes, used for general hot water and underfloor heating, only needs to be warmed from this temperature, saving energy costs.”
A manifestation of the elements that comprise its landscape, the Block House takes references from the sea, sand, cliffs and eucalypts that surrounds it. It stands peacefully on the beach, with nothing but the ocean to take in. And what’s more relaxing than the sound of the sea …
Written by Annabelle Cloros
Originally in Grand Designs Australia Volume 6 Issue 4