Tamarama House by Durbach Block Jaggers Architects
Residential Architecture – Houses (New): Robin Boyd Award
Australian Institute of Architects
This remarkable house, tucked into the lower side of an ugly suburban street – with its double garages, concrete mansions set back and triple-fronters – presents in contrast as a modest white Aegean cube with no double garage, but rather a garden engaging with the street. When viewed from the adjacent coastal walk – sublime as it comes, with time-weathered sandstone shelving out over azure waves and surf – the house is playful and intriguing. Entry is via an inviting recess in the facade at street level, through which the spatial order of two major floors, connected by a sculptural spiral staircase with two mezzanines, is progressively revealed. The pellucid water is seen from many vantage points.
Bedrooms are located on the upper (entry) level, the only routine move of the parti. The double-height living room is a piano nobile in the fullest sense, with a luscious north-facing sunken garden at one end and at the other the ever-changing sea. Kitchen and dining spaces are tucked under the mezzanine. Below the piano nobile is the double-height cabana, with bed and study on the mezzanine and a lounge and den on the lowest floor.
Spaces are beautifully sculpted and detailing is sublime. The thin handrails and elegant frames in deep reveals show the massiveness of the walls. The spiral staircase slips into its own cylindrical space. Rooms become cavernous spaces with curved corners and poché walls. Thickness is revealed with turreted windows, reminding us that the house is dug into the hill. The architecture is masterly, demonstrating, as Louis Kahn reminded us, that “architecture begins with the room.”