Beach and Bayside, Archisoul Architects

K&C House Featured in Beach and Bayside

On a sandy knoll above Manly Beach in New South Wales, the history of Australian Surf Lifesaving is embedded in the foundations of a heritage site circa 1890. At the sound of a bell, the local Sly brothers would drag their boat down the back lane of their two adjoining cottages to perform ocean rescues. Jo Gillies from Archisoul Architects gives context, “Women had those dreaded pantaloons and were probably drowning easily with all those clothes on, so they were going out and saving them.” These actions led to the official founding of Surf Lifesaving Australia. Over the century, their original timber clad homes were renovated multiple times independently of one another, until a double brief gave Jo the opportunity to consolidate two clients on opposite sides of the globe.

Beach and BaysideRespecting the characteristics of yesteryear and maintaining the coastal connection was integral to her design concept. In unifying the briefs, Jo anticipated saving time, cost and intrusion. Newmark constructions won the overall master contract for their high quality and architectural detailing, and within this framework each client had a personalised contract for fit-out. From the outset a heritage consultant was called in and council was also contacted for guidance. “It was a super exciting, very inspiring project to work on because it involved a number of different plays,” Jo says.

The orientation of the cottages pushed the creative boundaries of the design. Completely landlocked, Jo’s challenge was to facilitate solar interplay.

Beach and Bayside, Archisoul Architects

The semi on the northside of the east-west site captured northern light passively, so a balcony, adeptly angled windows and a light-filled stairwell formed the easier response. The semi on the southside known as K & C House demanded more attention. With insufficient floor space to add a void, Jo cleverly introduced a glass floor to harness light. She also added a rear courtyard framed by beautiful slimline, custom-made and thermally efficient doors to enhance the solar access.

The confined sites also required the negotiation of access. The infamous rear lane leading to the ocean feeds off to five houses, some with garages. This meant that driveway sweep angles had to be calculated to enable vehicle movement. A tall, flower-adorned trellis along the lane added to logistics, as it inhibited access for large trucks and the building materials. Instead, the front became the access point with only small trucks directed to the rear. Privacy was also a considerable concern due to the surrounding houses and one neighbour’s illegal works built on the boundary. Offsetting these issues Jo says was “tricky”.

Materials were dictated by the heritage listing, with the council requiring architectural detailing as a condition of consent. Timber joists and bearers formed the basis of the extensions and steel was incorporated for cross- bracing and to stabilise torsion. The timber frontages were restored to their original beauty, reassigning a beach shack personality. Elsewhere darker colours intentionally lead to recessive and austere traits when viewed from the street and rear.

Beach and Bayside, Archisoul Architects

A sleek roofline gives a free-floating appearance. The materials also had to be insulative and thermally responsive. Jo explains, “I call it a total juxtaposition of really modern materials and the old heritage”.

The owner of K & C House was living abroad at the time and communication was intense with frequent photographs going back and forth. The client’s refined European style drove the fit out in an exclusive direction. When Jo presented pictures of plywood reminiscent of modern ship interiors, the response was, “Just do it,” irrespective of cost. “Sometimes the more challenging sites push more clever design solutions to respond to that and the client loved it. He started out with ‘X’ amount of budget and kept increasing it,” she says.

Internally the configuration is flexible, two downstairs bedrooms are easily convertible to living rooms if required. Upstairs there are also two bedrooms, one is three meters high and notably spacious for the narrow site. “When the doors are tucked into the cavity, the sea breezes come through. It’s just a lovely space, a very nurturing bedroom,” says Jo.

The outcome of the 2019 renovations has exceeded both architect and the clients’ expectations. Jo attributes the success to a combination of things. “I always pride myself in using intuition in the design process, so intuitive ideas just dropping a lot and I run with them. If they work, happy days,” she says. Other qualities essential to an outstanding execution are strategic thinking and eliciting the best possible performance from her team. The overall brief was a rare project, with multiple highlights. It presented Archisoul Architects with an aesthetic autonomy informed by clients with diverse perspectives and taste. Simultaneously bringing together one builder with two clients in a prime location in Manly was a privilege and paying tribute to Australia’s historic surf culture and its founding local legends was another.

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