Sitting camouflaged in a highly visible location, Bangalley House is an exercise in balancing extreme exposure with protection. The rising headland site drinks in panoramic ocean views and shares sightlines with the golden sands of Avalon Beach in Sydney. “Almost any new building you’ll see on a Sydney headland really stands out, often to the detriment of the surrounding area,” says architect Rob Brown. “The clients didn’t want that. They asked for something that was moulded into the landscape.”
The clients have lived on the dress circle plot for over 20 years. They raised their children in the former dwelling and have witnessed first-hand the intensity of nature’s wrath that can be thrust upon the site. From salt spray to electrical storms and howling winds. Bookended, of course, by sunny days against the sparkling sea.
The now empty-nesters enlisted Rob Brown and Caroline Casey of Casey Brown Architecture to conceptualise a robust new home that complemented the headland’s timeworn cliffs and respected the site’s topography, while providing a feeling of privacy and shelter from the elements. The resulting home comprises a series of “stepped, staggered and linked pavilions”, each clad in San Selmo Corso bricks of assorted earth-toned colours. “We’ve got reds and whites and greys all mixed in together to satisfy the brief of matching the local rock,” says Rob.
Handmade in Venice, Italy, the bricks are long and slender, lending the abode a rather European look while ensuring it blends with its uniquely Australian surrounds. “I think what these long skinny bricks do is emphasise the horizontality of the stratification of the cliff. They also produce a beautiful patination – inside and outside – as the light moves around from morning to afternoon,” says Rob. “Every part of the day or the season, the bricks tell a different story.”
There is no paint in this house. And so, for the interior walls, the architects and their clients again opted for San Selmo Corso bricks, this time in contrasting crisp white. “We were keen to continue the distinctive form of the bricks inside and maintain that continuity,” says Rob. The interior ceilings are panelled in warming South American timber while the floors are laid with Italian stone. “The floor slabs are an Italian conglomerate, which is a type of stone that is made up of other stones, all cemented together naturally,” says Rob. “Like the bricks, each floor slab is unique, which gives the interior real texture and authenticity.”
The client’s brief for the showstopping staircase stipulated that anyone in the kitchen should be able to see through the stairs to the view beyond, explains Caroline. Rising to the task, the architect borrowed inspiration from the weather patterns of the locale to create a mostly transparent screen that is part-balustrade, part-sculpture. “I was trying to work with the notion of wind on the surface of water, of the ocean, and how wind changes the direction of our landscapes,” Caroline says of the screen’s fluid design.
Now that the home is complete and the owners have moved in, Rob says: “I suppose I compare it with what’s around – the bright blue and the bright green, and I think, well, it’s doing what it was always intended to do.” Caroline adds: “The clients are absolutely loving living here and experiencing it every day. I think you feel sheltered, you feel protected. There’s never a same day that rolls past here.”
Parts of this story first appeared on the Brickworks Design Channel.