Architect Renato D’Ettorre worked with PGH Bricks & Pavers to create a bespoke line of perforated bricks for a new family home in Gordons Bay, Coogee. The inspiration for GB House’s stunning facade was an Italian hay barn that D’Ettorre had come across during a vacation; the barn used perforated clay bricks on the walls to let the air pass through and keep the hay dry.
The client sought a house that could withstand the corrosive coastal atmosphere while living up to its magical bayside location. Given the challenging topography of the site, the architect had the freedom to develop concepts organically, with the only non-negotiables being to include a place for the three children to socialise in as well as a music room, and a small gym for the adults.
“In designing this house, we looked at the need to include diversity of conditions and objectives. Playfulness and fun formed part of those objectives,” says D’Ettorre.
“One of the biggest challenges was creating a home that struck the right balance between befitting such a magical setting while still remaining sensitive to its surroundings and creating a sense of mystery; both of which we achieved through the layered materiality.
“The house needed to respect the client’s likes and desires: simplicity and honesty of material without excess, simple forms with an evocative presence for such a popular and prominent location, with the underlying requirement for practicality and minimal upkeep,” he explained.
The large span of the house aimed to make the most of its picturesque location. However, this also called for an external material that would be strong yet beautiful enough to provide a dynamic play of light to the interior, tempering views and weather, and letting the house breathe without requiring unsustainable levels of maintenance. D’Ettorre suggested perforated brick for the facade.
D’Ettorre worked with PGH Bricks & Pavers to develop a bespoke breeze brick – perforated to allow light, fresh air and ocean views to filter through the house. The bricks would also be glazed only on the side of the facade of the house.
"PGH was delighted to take on the challenge and, together, they resolved the colour of the clay to be a lighter terracotta colour and the glaze to be a clean, brilliant white to dazzle under the sunlight, just as the ocean does.
“Externally, the white-glazed bricks needed to blend with white-painted brick walls to create the illusion of solidity, depth, and thickness. Internally, the unglazed terracotta-coloured clay responds to the refined grey concrete walls and the textured white painted brick walls. The three materials together created a colour harmony that imbued a sense of calmness and warmth, especially during the evenings when the clay breeze bricks are illuminated and glow like a warm fireplace.
“All external materials were chosen for their inherent natural hues and qualities, requiring minimum long-term maintenance,” D’Ettorre noted.
“With the passage of time, the materials will age gracefully developing authentic patinas like natural materials do when they are left to weather by the elements.”
D’Ettorre attributes the success of the project to the close collaboration between architect and client.
“Equally important was the collaboration with PGH Bricks & Pavers to create a bespoke brick specifically for this project. Without this collaboration for the custom brick, the project would have been less successful,” he says.
“This was our first experience collaborating with a building material manufacturer and the process was very enlightening; I would have no hesitation recommending PGH to other architects and look forward to working with them again.”