Designed by Andrew Simpson Architects, the Y House sits on the hills that overlook the Wye River along the Victorian coastline.
A house designed to withstand the second highest bushfire attack level and built to those particular restrictions, the house is a marvel of Australian materials and first-rate architecture.
After a lightning strike ignited a bushfire behind the Great Ocean Road in December 2015 and subsequently decimated a township, the Wye River community has slowly begun to rebuild the neighbourhood it lost seven years ago.
The fire completely stripped 80 percent of the Wye River township. 116 homes were lost and the dense bushland that blanketed the town was destroyed. While the majority of the homes were built to bushfire regulations, these regulations are only in place to prevent loss of life, not to protect the home.
The owners of the Wye River holiday house that was destroyed where the Y House now sits acted quickly. As opposed to sitting on their hands, they decided the best thing to do in the circumstances was to rebuild as quickly as possible.
This time it had to be different. Aware of the tribulation the project would cause and the complexity of the land the house would be built upon, Andrew Simpson undertook one of most challenging tasks he had faced in an architecture career spanning 20 years, but one that he ultimately refused to shirk irrespective of its difficulty.
“(It was) the most demanding project I’ve done,” he says in an interview with Domain from February 11, 2021.
“But I never thought of not doing it. It’s an amazing site.”
The house is an intricate arrangement of split level irregularities that account for landslip and bushfire regulations. Fitted out with Tasmanian Oak, a sustainable high quality Australian timber that possesses natural insulation qualities, the finish is applied to both ceiling and floor in a herringbone pattern that channels the “Y Shape” of the house itself.
Due to there being a complete lack of sewer mains, the house has its own on-site waste-management system which includes a dispersal field. Accounting for its BAL40 rating that classes the house at a very high bushfire risk, Simpson had to factor in restrictions on glazing, window fabrication and cladding systems, which is reflected in the exteriors minimalist look, that contains a small diagonal window that runs across the sides of the rear panel.
With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, the Y House is a beach house that is designed for three generations of family. The briefing received by Simpson required a highly flexible approach to family living, that allowed for different configurations of social groups while also providing scope for individuals to enjoy their “time out,” which is demonstrated in the design of the house itself. Each piece is a place for a separate generation.
The Y House is a true flagship of Australian architecture. Built within a tight confine of regulatory practices, Andrew Simpson Architects have produced a house that will not only catch the eye of onlookers in its path, but one that the family can truly be proud of in the wake of a natural disaster that levelled a township.
Images: Andrew Simpson Architects