Angling for the most sun and views

While the 'functional elements' of the house aligned to the subdivision grid, the main spaces were cranked off grid to better orient to the views and sun. Photos by Tom Blachford
While the 'functional elements' of the house aligned to the subdivision grid, the main spaces were cranked off grid to better orient to the views and sun. Photos by Tom Blachford

No pain, no gain as they say. But architect Christopher Megowan wasn't expecting this much of a challenge when building a two angle house in Mt Eliza on Victoria's coast.

"We had a great site, great clients, and great design," he said.

"We even had the Australian Grand Designs interested in featuring the build but after several interviews, their producer determined that there wasn't enough inherent drama in the project. They couldn't have been more wrong, and I couldn't be happier they missed out," he said.

Extensive concrete in floors and walls acts as thermal mass while in slab hydronic heating further helps regulate interior temperatures.

Extensive concrete in floors and walls acts as thermal mass while in slab hydronic heating further helps regulate interior temperatures.

The brief was to design a house that could accommodate a couple as well as their extended family and friends who visit Australia for long periods. There was a requirement that the principle areas of the house were designed on the top (second) floor allowing the two clients to live predominantly on one level despite the hillside nature of the site.

Christopher said that being on a corner site, there was an opportunity to break away from the prevailing pattern of development of the surrounding neighbors.

"While we maintained some of the more 'functional elements' of the house aligned to the subdivision grid, the main spaces were cranked off grid to better orient to the views and sun.

"From there, the design resulted from contrasting the two angles internally and then setting up a contrasting but almost thematic material palette. Cold concrete contrasting against warm timber," he said.

All good so far, but the build - anticipated to last 12 months - was not without its difficulties.

After 14 months, they parted ways with the original building contractor and a new company, Kabsav Projects, took over for the final eight months of the project.

"They did an incredible job and really pulled the rabbit out of the hat on this one," Christopher said.

The result is almost deceiving. The house presents to the street as a modest single family home in scale with many of the older post war homes in the area.

"It is only upon entry that the true scale of the house is revealed. The hillside context worked in our favour in this regard as the entrance is at the highest point of the site, therefore reducing the scale from the street.

The kitchen living and outdoor terrace was oriented to the west and north to maximize the views and dramatically frame sunsets.

The kitchen living and outdoor terrace was oriented to the west and north to maximize the views and dramatically frame sunsets.

"We used this aspect of the context to our advantage by designing a massive board formed blade wall which starts at a single storey scale and then extends down a double height stair void and ultimately ends up nearly three stories tall at its western extent.

"In doing this, there is another contrast built into the design where the ocean view and scale is denied by the large solid pivot entry door and then the reveal or opening of that front door provides a dramatic contrast between the suburban scale of the front and the statement views and spaces of the rear.

"There is actually so much to love about this house... The large board formed walls, kitchen, ensuite, polished concrete floors, timber ceilings, the scattered strip lights, the level of finish that Kabsav delivered...in the end, while nowhere near easy, it is a very satisfying project.

"If I'm being honest though, I think as good as we (and the owners) think the house is, they probably love the views the most. We did well in capturing, framing and maximising the views but it's a tall order to create architectural elements that can outshine the beauty of Port Phillip Bay," Christopher said.

Water tanks, solar panels and solar hot water (both domestic and for pool) are some of the many sustainable initiatives.

Water tanks, solar panels and solar hot water (both domestic and for pool) are some of the many sustainable initiatives.