Remarkably confident for a first project, this new coastal house by Taylor and Hinds Architects is intimately matched to the owners’ lifestyle of “camping, surfing and gardening.”
Located in the south-eastern corner of the South Arm Peninsula, just outside Hobart, Clifton Beach is uniquely positioned on an isthmus between Pipe Clay Lagoon to the north and its popular surf beach to the south. The clients for Lagoon House by Taylor and Hinds Architects wanted a residence that was intimately matched to their lifestyle of camping, surfing and gardening. They are fellow surfers and friends of the directors of this emerging practice, Poppy Taylor and Mat Hinds, and placed their faith in them as they knew the architects shared and therefore understood their lifestyle.
The architects presented two images for their site analysis. One was a close view of the branching structure, dappled shade and peeling bark of the swamp gums that populate the site, the other a mid-ground view to two large established trees of the same species, their network of limbs framing the lagoon vista. They suggested siting the building towards the centre of the large, flat site to capture these fore, mid and long views, while maximizing northern sun. The siting also takes in an existing rudimentary residence on the eastern side of the block. The clients expected the building would need to be demolished, but Mat and Poppy suggested that they could save funds by retaining it rather than incorporating guest quarters as part of the new build.
The lifestyle of the clients is evident in plan. The vehicular access sweeps around the rear of the guesthouse to arrive in the carport from the east. There are two entrances – one for visitors, the other for service. It is at the service entry that the clients empty carloads of camping and water sports gear, hose down wetsuits, shower off after a surf and put everything in the wash or storage, entering the house via a large laundry. A small family office and pantry are part of this service core, leaving the living spaces clear of life’s “stuff.” The public zones of the house run east–west across the site, while the bathroom and bedrooms are within a cranked arm capturing morning sun. Outdoor entertaining space to the north sits between the two wings of the building, accessible through wide openings from the living area.
Two clear strategies define the experience of this residence. The first is a carefully articulated skin. A heavy, double block wall to the south protects the dwelling from strong sea breezes and cold winter winds, fostering liveable northern spaces. This move creates a very clear distinction between front and back, extending the served and servant space approach outdoors, into entertaining and working gardens respectively. Wrapping the remaining facade is a thick timber skin that is carved into with deep reveals and angled glazing, in a way that orients the dweller to distinctive views within and beyond the site. It also maintains privacy from the guesthouse and other neighbouring residences. These deep reveals transform windows into micro rooms, with thickened walls concealing storage.
The second strategy arose in the work of resolving a roof over a cranked plan. To do so, the architects looked to the surrounds for inspiration. The calm lagoons and bays form strong, low, horizontal lines, above which flow irregular, rolling hills. Small farm buildings sit unapologetically within open space, their simple, darkened openings “falling” directly from the eave. So they established a strong, horizontal datum within the facade, above which a roofline rises and falls as needed for high-level glazing, mezzanine space and solar servicing. The architects call this a “utilitarian terrain.” This terrain is read from within, most particularly from a tiny loft in the library, where it wraps a sun-washed sitter as they gaze towards the lagoon.
The materials palette stitches together the key strategies, the character of the site and the client brief – “robust, honest, unfussy.” Face blockwork is tough yet soft within an environment of projected natural shadows. Flush, fixed glazing is separated from shuttered openings within the blockwork skin, offering what Mat describes as enjoyable material tension. Trowelled concrete floors are hardy yet elegant. Stained and natural hardwood lining and cladding is coloured or selected to work in concert with the bark of the surrounding gums. Mild steel plate lines the long kitchen bench and the end of the living room, offering a dark, cool, lustrous surface.
This first house for Taylor and Hinds Architects is remarkably accomplished and confident, given the age of the practice and the unique circumstance of its clients, who were located overseas for the entire build. Writing to me after my visit, one of the clients encapsulated a reason for this. “We had great communication between the architects, the builder and ourselves for the entire process. I really felt like everyone operated in a spirit of mutual respect and without ego.” It seems that this capacity for communication, or intent listening, is an emerging strength of the practice. Poppy and Mat’s description of the design is punctuated by references to international greats of architecture such as Louis Kahn and Sigurd Lewerentz and equally fine locals including Kerstin Thompson and John Wardle, so they are listening to their elders as well as the immediate construction team. But they are also defining their own way of listening to the site. The subtlety with which this house orients the dweller within the landscape makes the experience of the house distinctive and suggests the seeds of a continuing preoccupation for the practice.