Skip to content

Court House

The Court House, Aireys Inlet (11/2014 - 04/2016)

We were approached by a couple with young adult children to design a modest home for their re-location from Melbourne to the SurfCoast. The vacant site was within a quiet court, with a walking track off the end of the cul-de-sac down to a secluded beach. A recycled timber merchant, timber seemed the obvious choice of material for the cladding and bulk of the structure; connecting the dwelling to a coastal bush landscape. Early in the design process we had a Paperbark tree removed from around the base of a struggling Moonah within the middle of the front setback. This became the centrepiece of the scheme.

As part of the brief an outdoor area protected from the strong Southerly sea-breezes was requested. A bridge was also to be considered to enhance the sense of entry. Through a series of hand drawn sketches these initial ideas morphed into a central courtyard that could be closed off or opened up, depending on the weather or amount of privacy required. This space also acts as an arrival point, accessed via bi-folding core-ten steel gates. When open they amplify the presence of the immediate landscape, while in the closed position provide shelter, security and an internalised connection between the pavilions.


The Living, Dining, Kitchen with Walk in Pantry and Powder are gathered into a social wing at ground level, opening to the native garden to the East. Across the Court a more private 2-storey wing encompasses a Study, Laundry, Master Bedroom with Robe and Ensuite. A central Stair provides access to the upper-level Bedrooms at either end of this wing, and Bathroom. Both pavilions open to the central courtyard via glazed sliding doors, and one must pass through the outdoor/indoor courtyard space to move between each of the wings.


The internal materials include hoop pine plywood with expressed hardwood battens for the walls, polished concrete floor and sealed fibre-cement sheet ceiling, creating an honest no-fuss palette. The owner sourced Australian White Mahogany shiplap profile timber boards for the cladding, with expressed structural elements in Blackbutt and selected joinery also in Hoop Pine. The carpenters, contractors and builder were dedicated and capable, and achieved the high level of detail evident in the project.


The design plays on the sensibilities of the Australian beach house and the capacity to live outdoors. With the core-ten gates open the clients continuously flow outside to engage with the landscape prior to re-entering the home. The dwelling is set down into the site when viewed from the street. Therefore, the house is not overtly emphasized, allowing the natural landscape to retain its presence in an urban context, a preferred character of these coastal settlements. The dwelling has been designed to accommodate the client’s needs, provide flexibility for many future generations, and endure the test of time.


Energy Efficiency: The living wing roof lifts to the East, inviting the morning sun to penetrate deep into the floor plate for solar gain. The West wing is screened with horizontal louvres to the north and south to provide sun protection and privacy. Fixed core-ten steel shutters protect the West facing glazing from the strong afternoon sun in Summer, while also providing privacy from the adjoining owner. The roof of the courtyard is translucent, enabling this space to fill with luminous diffused light, overshadowed by the second-storey level to provide protection in Summer. The adaptability of the envelope increases the building’s ability to respond to the changing climatic conditions, with the placement of openable windows and doors also helping to control and manipulate the prevailing winds and temperature. When the gates are open cool sea breezes can flow through the courtyard, flushing the hot air out of the pavilions either side. Through Winter they are generally set to the closed position, with the central wood fired boiler, continuously loaded to heat the residence via a series of wall mounted hydronic panels. The conjunction of appropriate solar passive design and thermal mass of the concrete slab provide warmth in the autumn, winter and cooler spring days. A solar hot water service is also provided.