Architecture Foundation Australia

Lookout House

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Lookout House, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia : 1986 : Andresen and O'Gorman

The beach house has wide ocean views to Moreton Island and Cylinder Beach headland. Sheltered from the prevailing south-east winds by the hillside behind, the site with its northerly aspect has an unusually benign micro-climate for a coastal location. The steep 20 x 35m allotment was benched in the 1950s to form a level site for a one-room beach house. The original 9.5 x 6.5m one-storey structure was erected centrally on the site, facing the northern view and with a slight skew to the west.

In 1985 the owner’s brief included construction of a separate bedroom to be independent of the original six-bunk beach house; and a bathhouse and laundry with external access for beachgoers. There was also a need to make thresholds between inside and outside as places to shed sand, shelter from the sun and rain and to leave things outside but under cover. The strategy was to retain and repair the 1950s house as the core of a larger habitable territory defined by a timber framework linking a variety of small, open structures over the flat area of the site.

To create a threshold between outside and inside, the north wall of the original house, with its row of wooden shutters, was framed and amplified by a parallel timber structure and decking extending the full width of the site. The north deck acts as a threshold to the big room of the house and to the semi-enclosed courtyard outside. This narrow northern deck terminates in open porches close to the east and west side boundaries. The eastern porch makes an entry way to the back of the house, offers a winter sun-trap and increases visual privacy between the adjoining properties. On the west, the porch links the tower stair and a side deck to the bathhouse.

The new bedroom was located, for privacy and ocean views, on the second level of a small tower, leaving the first – and open – level to be used for ground-level activities. The tower is sited on the north, close to the west boundary, at the edge of a steep bank. It was placed away from the house, with an open base to maintain a relatively unobstructed view from the house, and a courtyard area formed between them. The intention in arranging the rooms of the tower vertically was to reveal the visual drama of the landscape in the climb to the upper-level lookout. The tower stairs alternately withhold and reveal seaward views. The climb to the second level along the west boundary obscures the familiar ground-level view to Cylinder Beach headland. The landing is extended to the north-west to draw attention to the first glimpse of Moreton Island – a view not visible from the ground. On turning and entering the bedroom interior, there is a diagonal view of a higher, framed view of Cylinder Beach. The steeper and narrower climb to the top lookout leads north then east to reveal wide vistas over the Coral Sea. To achieve the experience of even greater height with even less enclosure, sections of the lookout are elevated to reduce the visual distraction of the immediate foreground.

A tower form generated by the local authority height limit of 8.5m and dimensions required for the bedroom and dining deck results in poor proportions. To achieve greater slenderness in the tower form, the section is staggered, the corner post exposed over the full length, and the shutters elongated. The freestanding, raised bathhouse behind the house is both an extension to the original bathroom insideand an independent facility. Its semi-enclosed shower is raised above the ground and has shutters that open to a view of the ocean. The bathhouse takes advantage of fragmented light and views through the site while providing privacy and shelter in the open structure and giving a sense of exposure to the sky and trees.


Text Edited from the Andresen and O’Gorman Architects’ Statement

Photos : Richard Stringer

Drawings: Timothy Hill

Photos and drawn images sourced from ‘UME 22 – Andresen and O’Gorman Works 1995-2001’ by Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper, 2011

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