When presented with a waterfront site, there’s often a temptation to maximise views via tree removal and excavation, but CplusC Architectural Workshop weren’t interested in this invasive approach.
In designing ‘Balmy Palmy’ in Palm Beach, Sydney, the architects instead chose to ground the house on the existing rocky escarpment and dance around five mature trees. Architect and builder Clinton Cole explains, ‘Carving the house into the hill wasn’t an option — why excavate the very landscape we’re celebrating? So, we decided to plant it proudly in the ground on bored concrete piers.’
The resulting two-bedroom, one-bathroom home is a 94 square metre timber structure accessed from ground level by a spiral staircase. ‘Our intention was to express the structure of the building in a contemporary yet abstract representation of the surrounding tree trunks, particularly the muscular nature of the Moreton Bay fig’ says Clinton.
The house was constructed using a partially prefabricated method to reduce its embodied energy, and navigate the challenging site. Clinton describes the process as coming together ‘like a Meccano set.’ He explains, ‘The build system devised by our team meant we could maintain the uniqueness of design with a structure that was prefabricated off site to be simply bolted together on site. Taking the construction process back to a basic bolted assembly system allowed us to build this home in record time and to control the quality of the build to exacting standards.’
CplusC carefully managed the eventual installation of the structure to ensure minimal cranes, heavy lifts, or impact to significant trees. ‘The only time we needed a large crane was for the installation of the spiral staircase. The fit of the stairs took two of our team only three hours to install,’ says Clinton. ‘Being the builders of our projects keeps us very grounded in the reality of how our built designs perform, how much they cost to build, and how long they take to build.’
While the budget and site dictated a relatively modest floor plan internally, clever design ensures the home can sleep up to 12 through an assortment of bunks, trundles, and fold out beds.
The interiors extend onto generous outdoor spaces including a deck and mesh that serves as an oversized hammock. CplusC designed these outdoor areas to embrace the tree canopy as intimately as possible, without touching a single branch!
‘The site’s challenging nature had apparently deterred many looking to develop the land, which imposed strict development controls and environmental constraints,’ says Clinton.
The material selection of timber, corrugated iron, and fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) further facilitates a home with low embodied energy and minimal maintenance. ‘Although FRP uses more energy to manufacture, the fact that it is easy to install, requires no maintenance and has a lifespan of well over a hundred years means less energy is required throughout the entire lifespan of the home.’
Lying in the hammock while watching families on the beach below through the foliage is the owner’s favourite element of the home. ‘It is hard to describe in words the feeling when you are up there. Being able to look out into the horizon from every room just makes it feel like a different world.’