2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

Photo Credit : Trevor Mein, Meinphoto.


Project Overview

This house acts as an optical instrument, a series of devices that frame views beyond the abutting foreshore to the south toward the Heads of Port Phillip Bay. The most significant promenade through the house takes you from the street, along a gently stepped path, to the entry stair, where you are sufficiently elevated to appreciate the view as you arrive at the uppermost level. The careful choreography of this sequence is amplified by materiality and adjacencies: fine timber detailing, woven wicker and calacatta marble in the kitchen. The experience on entry is private and cocooned from the exterior. Once above, the views expand and are focussed on the horizon of the ocean to the south.

Project Commissioner


Project Creator

John Wardle Architects


Team: John Wardle, Stefan Mee, Diego Bekinschtein (Project Architect), Lauren Holland, Andrew Wong, James Juricevich, Amanda Moore and Nick Harding.

Project Brief

Initially conceived as a weekend residence, the Clients decided during the process of construction to make this their permanent residence. The house was to be set over a number of levels. The main public level, raised to capture views of the Bay was to contain the main living spaces, the main bedroom suite and a study. The Clients wished to do the majority of their living on this platform with a view. A lower level would include spare bedrooms for the Clients’ two daughters with associated living areas and an entertaining spa deck. The house had to demonstrate a relaxed and open feel consistent with its coastal setting but also be finished internally to an appropriate level should the house ever become their permanent residence, as eventually transpired.

Project Innovation / Need

The house is carefully zoned to allow for privacy between parents and adult children on a narrow site. The main living and dining space is where the family, and friends, come together. In this way, the house is designed for a busy family life, allowing for both privacy and communal gathering.
The direct visual connection between the interior and the sea encourages the contemplation of ships crossing the Heads en route to distant ports, a relaxing retreat from work.
The project explores the qualities Spotted gum Australian hardwood through a variety of applications. The timber is detailed as cladding, decking, screens and sunshades and provides a uniform quality and colour to the exterior shell of the building.

Design Challenge

A challenge for Victorian coastal houses is to reconcile the southern views with northern solar orientation. In this instance, a courtyard has been introduced to gain northern aspect to the living spaces and to capture the afternoon sun within an environment shielded from the strong southerlies. The principal bedroom is oriented south stealing ocean views through the glazed main living pavilion and across the courtyard.


When designing the residence the key decisions related to choosing materials able to withstand the harsh coastal environment. The Clients invested in materials that are highly durable, corrosion resistant and will require minimal maintenance. The insitu concrete, zinc cladding and class 1 durability Australian spotted gum selected will perform well and age gracefully over time. Every component of steel structure, exposed to the elements or concealed, was hot dip galvanized to improve longevity.
The residence is focused towards the views of Bass Strait to the south. In order to achieve north light, the living spaces wrap themselves around a central courtyard that allows for sheltered outdoor spaces at both levels. East and west glazing (all external doors and windows have performance double glazing) has been minimized to reduce heat gain. A great level of natural daylighting is achieved throughout the house, eliminating the need for artificial lighting by day. Timber windows were preferred for their better thermal properties and lower embodied energy.
A great level of natural ventilation has been achieved. Large openings on the south elevation can be opened to take advantage of the prevailing southerly winds. Windows have been strategically placed to maximise cross ventilation. Air conditioning is limited to the main bedroom.
A water tank is fed from the roof and supplies water to garden taps, the laundry and toilets pans. Tap fittings are low flow AAA rated.
Materials finishes and paints were considered for their low embodied energy and low volatile organic compounds (V.O.Cs) emissions.

This award recognises the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project must be constructed.
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