Natural connection: Bundeena Beach House

On a rocky outcrop at the eastern edge of a secluded beach south of Sydney, this house maximizes opportunities to connect with the spectacular natural environment that surrounds it.

Bundeena is a place of contrasts. Its location, only twenty-five kilometres south of Sydney as the crow flies, might suggest a popular getaway destination. However, restricted accessibility (a ferry ride from Cronulla or a winding drive through the Royal National Park) protects it from the hordes. It also adds an extra degree of difficulty to building projects.

Sydney residents Kathy and Shiva approached Grove Architects to design a new family holiday home to replace a damp, rundown shack on their complex Bundeena site. Their brief asked for an unimposing house that, unlike the existing shack, would maximize their connection to the natural environment and celebrate the site’s expansive western water views. Following an extended design period, a local foreman was engaged alongside the selected Sydney-based contractor to manage issue of site accessibility. The final result is a robust and considered dwelling that is fundamentally of its site.

Like Bundeena itself, the house is also something of contrasts – both a modest and a standout architectural response to a challenging but spectacular coastal site. From across the bay, there is little indication of the home’s existence. However, on approach, its visual difference to neighbouring properties certainly commands attention.

Bundeena Beach House is designed to connect to the environment and celebrate the western water views.

Bundeena Beach House is designed to connect to the environment and celebrate the western water views.

Image: Michael Nicholson

From the street, the steeply sloping site means that the most visible part of the house is its roof. Grove Architects has capitalized on this, creating a green roof that leads the eye effortlessly into the mature eucalypts beyond. The roof’s native oasis overspills its delicately detailed edge on one side, but is controlled by a cleverly integrated strip of photovoltaic panels on the other. Rather than utilizing the maximum permitted height, the building nestles as low as possible into the site. The view from street to waterfront is enhanced by the roof, not restricted by it.

The architects’ considered, contextual design response balances openness and outdoor connection with privacy and protection from the elements. A simple building form comprises two perpendicular, intersecting volumes, one clad in cedar and the other in rusted Corten steel. The rich, earthy metal is both striking and camouflaging. The combination of robust materials, simple structure and minimal moving parts reduces corrosion risk and increases durability in this exposed environment.

A slender orthogonal plan allows the main body of the house to retreat from the site’s side boundaries, one of which borders a public waterfront access route. By extending further toward its narrow northern edge, the house enjoys a long western elevation to the water. The secondary volume gives privacy to the primary living spaces. Internally, a double-height void connects the upper entry directly to the lower living spaces. Identification of the separate volumes is maintained as the cedar cladding outside becomes a plywood wall inside. A sculptural skylight roof is angled to allow precious northern and eastern daylight into the heart of the house, inviting morning light to dance across the void’s internal walls like an ever-changing work of art.

The kitchen and dining areas are oriented to exploit the views and seamlessly connect with the garden.

The kitchen and dining areas are oriented to exploit the views and seamlessly connect with the garden.

Image: Michael Nicholson

The upper floor is solid and enclosed to reduce exposure to the harsh western sun. Fixed perforated metal panels provide an elegant shading strategy to both maintain views out and mask the glazing externally. In contrast, the ground floor is open, seamlessly connecting with the garden. On the eastern side, a dark wall grounds the building, providing a peaceful backdrop to the outlook. The kitchen and dining areas are oriented to exploit the views.

Connection to, and consideration of, the environment continues in the building’s operation. A strip of solar panels on the roof generates electricity, more than satisfying the family’s energy requirements and eliminating the need for a gas connection; and rainwater is collected for garden irrigation. Nature is present throughout. Trees wave through the skylight and framed views draw the eye outside. Native succulents hang gently beyond bedroom windows from the roof above.


Grove Architects
Project Team
Sky Grove, John Grove
Builder Barry Built
Energy consultant Immortal Systems
Engineer Cardno
Landscaping Junglefy, Bates Landscape
Site Details
Location Sydney,  NSW,  Australia
Site type Suburban
Site area 538 m2
Building area 265 m2
Project Details
Status Built
Completion date 2019
Design, documentation 24 months
Construction 16 months
Category Residential
Type New houses



Published online: 4 Feb 2020
Words: Rachel Harris
Images: Michael Nicholson


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