When driving north along Barrenjoey Road towards Sydney’s Palm Beach, the road meanders through a mixture of 1950s beach cottages and newer, less modest additions on its way towards the most northern part of Sydney.

The Packers, Charles Curran, Nicole Kidman, James Murdoch and John Cleese have all been spotted in the idyllic Palm Beach suburb, which has undergone a significant transformation since its adolescence as a Customs Station and Chinese fishing settlement.

One new addition to the strip, Pittwater House by Andrew Burges Architects, is a stone’s throw from the old shops and beach frequented by locals and celebrities alike; its character, like the township, a balance of old, new and exclusive.

The footprint of Pittwater House is divided into two identical pavilions of stone base and recycled Tallowwood cladding which address either the street (top image) or the beach (below image) and are a tribute to the surrounding cottages.

The site is located on the thin, flat strip of land that runs between the Palm Beach ridgeline escarpment and Pittwater, which gives the house dual frontage—one to the east which affronts the road and the other to the west waterfront.

The two pavilions are connected by a north facing double height indoor/outdoor room that house the kitchen and dining room. The architects have suggested that this manipulation of the building form halves the perceptible size as viewed from the public realm of the street or beach.

Public perception more obviously informed the design of the building’s west facing facade which is devoted to the clients’ request for privacy and flexible living. Burges developed a thickened threshold that is dominated by a variety of pulley operated tallowwood screens and louvres which makes the west facing façade completely flexible.

The façade is controlled by a rope and pulley system on stainless steel outriggers that is driven by linear actuators. It can be opened and closed to provide infinite combinations of shade, exposure and privacy in relation to the western orientation and views over Pittwater.

 The overall character of the house is dominated by its two monolithic qualities – timber and stone – which Burges says heightens the simple play on the layering of the early vernacular beach house.

The robust stone podium was developed through the use of thick, carefully shaped thresholds and is balanced and layered by the warmth of the variety of recycled timber elements.

Pittwater House is a distinct contemporary expression of Palm Beach living and the early vernacular beach house that facilitated this lifestyle. 


           Images: Peter Bennetts. Plans: ABA