The client’s original brief was for a small island house for her and her four grandchildren; her main extravagance being a slippery slide. The brief eventually became more lavish, the block of land selected eventually becoming the site for a completely self sufficient house within some strict council planning limitations.
This house was completed as a collaboration between Gabriel Poole and Tim Bennetton Architects. Tim originally worked for Gabriel after coming up to Queensland from Victoria to study architecture. They continue to work together and collaborate on many projects – the bulk of the design on this job is Gabriels. However, over the last 10 years or so it has become clear that the many conversations and working through of ideas between Gabriel, Elizabeth (his wife, an artist – currently with an installation going in for the commonwealth games), Tim and Barry Hamlet of Studio Steel that many ideas are developed and implemented across multiple projects, with Gabriel effectively remaining ‘the master’. However, he remains old school and demonstrates architecture through work rather than words. In response to a question like the above his answer is: “I don’t know what they are even asking”… Tim’s take on the philosophy behind Gabriel’s architecture is that it all about lightness, invention and fun, but just as importantly about the beauty of proportion and space. The house is completely self sufficient in power and water and demonstrates an ongoing commitment to sustainable architecture.
You arrive by boat to get to the house, walk across the ‘esplanade’ (a gazetted roadway, but basically bush and dune – though the council insisted that no sand be deposited as part of the DA). The house appears with decks through the tree canopy. You haven’t found the waterslide yet but how much more fun can you have! The fold out ‘pods’ were partly done to get through town planning limits on site coverage – they take up less space when folded up! They are also a very enjoyable way to sleep in a tent in by the beach.
The ideal of a house like this is the ‘beach shack’, Currigee was originally a fishing village and retains a low key community atmosphere. Quite appropriately any new houses that are approved must sit below the canopy line (at about 8m). The house is formed by two wings across a screened breezeway – very appropriate for island living. The form is generated partly by the structure (a series of portal frames) and partly by the desire to open up to the north. Basically they are skillion roofed pavilions – with a twist as they are cranked in the middle.
Everyone got a bit excited once the water slide was floated – and the need to house four grandchildren extended the brief somewhat. The owner is very social – there are many different spaces (outside & inside) where the mood is slightly different but friends can be entertained.
We had worked with Charlie the builder before and he was brave enough to take on an island project. He hadn’t driven a boat before – to celebrate ‘turning the soil’ he picked us up in his new boat – we didn’t make it over as the engine was dodgy. Thankfully the esky was full – no tempers were lost, we had a good team. We engaged many of the tradespeople we have worked with for years. A new opportunity was working with Steven Clegg landscapes on the garden. Many of Elizabeth’s artworks were integrated into the house.
Building a house like this on the mainland wouldn’t be simple or easy – building on an island was that much more difficult and costs were higher than usual as absolutely everything had to be barged onto the beach and dragged up to site. Only one concrete truck got bogged! So this isn’t the cheapest house you will find – but all the contractors worked hard to provide very good value. And as usual there were custom pieces (such as the ‘punkah fans’ and pods that use horse float hinges) – doing this on an island is a challenge!
Status: completed 2017
Internal: 189.1 m2
External: 86.1 m2
Structural Engineer: Bligh Tanner
Construction Team: Charles Warren Constructions
Steel Fabricator: Studio Steel
Landscape Architect: Steven Clegg Design
Colour Consultant and Artworks: Elizabeth Poole
Awnings and foldout beds: Creative Canvas and Blinds
Photography: Harry Frith