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This Non-Conventional Holiday Home Is Mostly Underground

Architecture

The views from this property in Flinders, Victoria are absolutely stunning, but they come from a house that is largely built underground. This may sound confusing or counterproductive, but the arrangement is necessary to overcome the home’s position on a landslip-affected zone. 

By anchoring bedrooms underground with a cantilevering living domain above, Rob Kennon Architects have mastered this site’s challenging requirements, while designing an all-round beautiful home.

5th October, 2020

Bluff House is located in Flinders, Victoria. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Cutting the centre of the site is the meeting point of two geologies, resulting in a landslip-affected zone. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The house was designed to be three quarters of the way underground, with an exposed living domain above. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Timber kitchen joinery. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The upper form correlates to the vast horizon and accentuates the dramatic panoramic views. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Imperfections in the stone and timber wall linings bring movement to the otherwise ordered structure. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Photo – Derek Swalwell

The upper level contains the open living area separates and two main bedrooms. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Photo – Derek Swalwell

Photo – Derek Swalwell

An outdoor living extends off the upper living space. Photo – Derek Swalwell

The basement area acts like a large occupied footing, anchoring the house deep into the escarpment. It contains additional bedrooms, a rumpus rooms, laundry and bathroom. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Photo – Derek Swalwell

Full-bleed glazing on the facade mirrors hues of the landscape.  Photo – Derek Swalwell

The coastal home sits as an object in the landscape. Photo – Derek Swalwell

Amelia Barnes
Monday 5th October 2020

‘They’re sort of the inverse of each other – a cosy space underneath, and then a very open, horizontal space upstairs.’ – Rob Kennon

Rob Kennon Architects have created plenty of beautiful homes, but none quite like Bluff House.

Located in Flinders, Victoria, the site of this home contains the meeting point of two geologies, resulting in a landslip-affected zone. ‘When building on a bluff, there’s a lot of geotechnical issues that you need to consider, to do with stability and to limit erosion,’ says Rob Kennon.

To overcome this, the house was designed three quarters of the way underground, with an exposed living domain above. The basement area acts like a large occupied footing, anchoring the house deep into the escarpment, while the upper level of the home provides light and views to the ocean. ‘You get this very dynamic situation where you’ve a very grounded area of the building, and then a very light area of the building,’ says Rob. ‘They’re sort of the inverse of each other – a cosy space underneath, and then a very open, horizontal space upstairs.’

Site requirements stipulated the house could only be built out to a certain point, but this was again overcome by clever planning. In response, two parallel plates cantilever off reinforced block work to extend the building over the landslip terrain and maximise views to the coastline. Rob explains, ‘You can’t build past a certain line, but we wanted to be past that line, so we needed to cantilever the upper floor to where we wanted to be… the upper level actually floats out many many metres.’

Minimising the relatively large house’s visual impact is the use of stained black spotted gum shiplap on the exterior, balanced with floor to ceiling glazing that mirrors hues of the landscape. In the words of Rob Kennon, this coastal home sits as an ‘object in the landscape’, co-existing but not integrating, compelling but not dominating. 

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