A Breathtaking Lake House Completely Open To Its Natural Surrounds

Australians don’t have much tradition in lake house architecture. When we think of spots to retreat beside a body of water, most of us think of the ocean. But this monolithic residence in Pacific Palms (260km north of Sydney) makes a great case for the lake house!

Matthew Woodward Architecture were engaged to create a sturdy but experimental residence atop this windswept 25-acre property overlooking Wallis Lake on the north coast of New South Wales. The result is a robust dwelling, crafted from rough and raw textures that will weather with time, and blends seamlessly into the rugged surrounds.

Sasha Gattermayr

The humble front door shows no indication of the vast construction beyond! Photo – Brett Boardman.

Concrete was chosen for its thermal insulation properties as well as its aesthetic Photo – Brett Boardman.

Timber and concrete are a natural material marriage in this rough-hewn residence. Photo – Brett Boardman.

Golden hour on the upstairs floor. Photo – Brett Boardman.

The spectacular – but spare – upstairs master suite. Photo – Brett Boardman.

The master bathroom with expansive views out over Lake Wallis. Photo – Brett Boardman.

From where you’d rather be! Photo – Brett Boardman.

The view from the living area across to the sleeping quarters. Photo – Brett Boardman.

The entire north-facing vantage opens up to the natural world. Photo – Brett Boardman.

The two concrete prisms are connected by a timber walkway, which leads to the bushland at the back of the property. Photo – Brett Boardman.

A stunning narrow lap pool surrounded by native grasses. Photo – Brett Boardman.

A birds-eye view is always better than a floor plan! The southern end of the property is raised on the natural incline of the block, while the main living quarters sit on the flattened, excavated slice of land at the fore. Photo – Brett Boardman.

Sasha Gattermayr
11th of June 2020

Matthew Woodward (of Matthew Woodward Architecture) describes his use of materials in this awe-inspiring Lake Wallis residence as ‘experimental’.

‘It’s about accepting imperfections, as they tell a story of the construction process,’ he explains. ‘Accepting blemishes, tarnishing, oxidisation and general weathering allows materials to age in their natural state, and provides a level of richness and integrity that differs from other houses.’

Situated on a 25-acre property (of which 20 acres are covered in native bushland), the house is inspired by the raw and exposed landscape it sits upon. Previous owners had excavated a level pad on the sloping block, buttressed by a concrete wall. The southern end of the residence is raised on the natural incline of the block, while the main living quarters sit on the flattened slice of land at the fore. The previously cut level exposed a cross section of the cliff’s shale rock face, which served as the starting point for the simple material palette.

The residence comprises of two rectangular concrete prisms in equal proportion, connected by a timber gangplank. Rough-sawn recycled Australian blackbutt was selected for its longevity, and has been milled from old telegraph poles and bridge piers. This hardwood exterior cladding greys over time and blends with the off-form concrete edifices that wrap the structure inside and out. While raw, exposed materials signal an aesthetic appeal to the environment, they were also chosen for their sustainability credentials. Off-form concrete stores thermal energy and embodies heat retention when exposed to solar heating, and blackbutt timber is local and recycled.

The north-facing house opens itself to the elements, utilising sliding glass doors on the lower levels and hydraulic levered timber screens on the upper floor to unfold the residence out onto the property. With bushland at the rear of the property and rolling, unimpeded views down to Lake Wallis, maximum connectivity to the natural surrounds was a key design tenet.

The landscaping is subtle but essential to a house so invested in its ability to rest easily in its environment. A narrow, free standing lap pool is lined with drooping native grass, while the exposed green roof garden can only be viewed from the raised lawn at the back of the residence overlooking the lake.

But it’s the upper level master suite which is truly astounding. Operable timber screens control sun exposure to the master bedroom but also open the entire structure up to a panoramic vantage over Lake Wallis. We could get used to the views from that bath!

See more projects from Matthew Woodward Architecture here.

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