Making the most of Castle Hill’s lofty views, Stuart Street House (by local architect Outcrop Architecture) has taken out House of the Year at the 2017 North Queensland Architecture Awards.
Built for Canadian scientists who’ve fallen in love with the Aussie bush, Stuart Street House looks as though it’s carved into the side of Castle Hill. It sits within a new five-lot subdivision at the edge of established urban area, resulting in a distinctive site that belongs more to the landscape of the hill than the neighbouring streetscapes. Working with the hill setting was fundamental to the concept of this house.
“Early in the design process the client stated a preference to position their most important spaces – the master bedroom and living areas – as high as possible on the site to make the most of the fantastic ocean views,” says Outcrop Architecture’s Mark Kennedy. “This created some design challenges, with the aim being to move up through a sequence of distinct experiences and views, rather than a monotonous hard slog up a stairwell.”
The Stuart Street House sits within a new five-lot subdivision backing onto the Castle Hill Reserve. The distinctive site belongs more to the landscape of the hill than the neighbouring streetscapes.
The site is subject to relatively stringent height restrictions due to its adjacency to the Heritage-listed Castle Hill Reserve. Mark and his team worked within these restrictions to ensure the house is never more than two storeys above natural ground in any location, resulting in a staggered form that minimises bulk while still achieving the client’s desired access to views.
“The floor plan divides the house into two wings arranged around the dramatic central stair void,” Mark says. “The form is broken down into five split levels that tie the house platforms into the existing topography. You only have to walk half a flight of stairs for a new view.”
Retaining walls are constructed using carefully placed local stone in gabion walls. Landscaping is a combination of native plantings, existing rock and weathering steel edges.
The dynamic stair void space forms the central orienting feature of the house.
The brief of the house was mostly conventional – three bedrooms (the couple has two young-adult children), a guest/TV room, entertainment deck, edgeless resort-style pool, double garage and (in a throwback to their Canadian upbringing) a sauna.
Encompassing about 300 square metres of living space, the interiors of the house are a relatively simple combination of timber floors with white walls and ceilings.
Large stacking sliding doors transform the open-plan living room into a verandah-like space.
“The main focus is on the view, especially in the lounge room where large stacking doors slide back to make the space a verandah-like living platform,” Mark says. “The client’s brief also conveyed a desire for a very low-maintenance house. To meet this need, we’ve mostly used pre-finished materials that don’t require regular maintenance.”
The majority of the house is clad in Duroclad timber composite cladding, manufactured using recycled timber fibres and recycled polyethylene. Soffits and some walls are clad using Barestone cladding and the roofs and outermost walls are clad with Colorbond profiled metal sheeting. As a result, the only painted external surfaces are limited to lower level rendered walls that won’t require expensive scaffolding to repaint. The landscape is also designed for minimal maintenance, with mostly native vegetation and no areas of lawn.
Translucent Shoji screens lead from the master bedroom to the ensuite and walk-in robes
The external materials and colours were selected to work with the natural tones of the hill and, in the landscaping, gabion walls made use of local granite.
The project also incorporates a range of features that contribute to sustainable living, including a 10kW solar power system, with provision for future battery storage. The design of the house involved numerous sun studies to minimise solar penetration, other than in the winter months.
Highlight louvres in the kitchen promote cross-ventilation.
“We’ve designed the home for cross-ventilation in the key living spaces to capture the regular afternoon sea breezes and minimise reliance on air-conditioning,” Mark says.
“Low-e glazing has been used throughout to enhance the performance of glazing systems and all timber products specified in the project are FSC-certified.”
Furthermore, stormwater runoff has been directed into rock swales that slow the movement of water before discharging it to the adjacent natural gully, rather than discharging to ‘hard’ stormwater systems.
“The form is broken down into five split levels that tie the house platforms into the existing topography.”
“We always feel very fortunate to work on projects like this that combine a fantastic site, client and builder (Live Construction),” Mark says.
“Winning the House of the Year award is very satisfying and a great reward for all of the team who worked so hard on the project over a number of years. We’re also excited to announce a new phase for architecture in Townsville…. Be sure to visit www.cpoint.com.au to learn more about this evolution.”