Queensland coastal home applauded with major award

SENSE OF PLACE: Casuarina House is positioned on one edge of the block, to free up space for a large garden that spans the full length of the site and encourages engagement with the outdoors.
SENSE OF PLACE: Casuarina House is positioned on one edge of the block, to free up space for a large garden that spans the full length of the site and encourages engagement with the outdoors.

Coastal oasis Casuarina House is a beautifully crafted, bold beach house that intimately links the owners to the garden, street, and the broader beach-burb setting.

Designed by Vokes and Peters House, the building recently received the top accolade for new residential architecture at the Australian Institute of Architects' Queensland Architecture Awards, taking out the Robin Dods Award for Residential Architecture - Houses (New).

Home to a young family with two children, the brief was simple: to design a new permanent family house in a coastal suburban setting. The architects however, took the concept much deeper.

"Whilst the location is just a five-minute walk from the beach, the site does not have a view of the ocean or distant scenic landscape," explains Vokes and Peters director, Stuart Vokes. "In response, we talked about engaging the occupant in a phenomenal way (with all of the senses) to the essence or spirit of the coastal setting - the smell of local native flora, the taste of the salty air, the sound of the ocean, the feel of sand on the velvety bricks under bare feet, the view of a passing cloud or moonlight cast in the interior."

Vokes says the floor plan is arranged to encourage movement between rooms in external spaces - a protected elevated verandah at the upper level and a roofless outdoor room in the centre of the plan. The house is also designed with a relatively modest footprint in order to maximise the scale of the garden and private open space.

"The garden is a powerful and enduring symbol of 'home'," he says. "This is meaningful for a client moving from a high-rise CBD apartment in downtown Sydney to a setting suitable for raising young boys.

"The narrow house yields a generous garden that spans from street to rear boundary, providing a wonderful dialogue between the private life of the occupant and the life of the street and broader neighbourhood."

According to Vokes, the north-facing garden is about visual beauty, bio-diversity, healthy air, water and soil, and sustaining cultural behaviour, routines and rituals. "The arrangement of this new house and garden encourages an active social neighbourhood," he says. "A brick seat and unfenced extension of the verge provides a place for parents to gather whilst children ride bikes and scooters in the cul-de-sac."

The striking use of materials encompasses brick, concrete and timber, including the impressive screen. "Painted timber is humane and reveals a culture of care and handcraft in the making of the house," says Vokes. "Facade bricks and concrete are robust and carefully negotiate the intimate interface with the ground and garden."

Vokes says winning the Queensland Architecture Award gives recognition of the collective efforts made by the clients, tradespeople and makers, and the Vokes and Peters' team.

"Our method of working attempts to focus on the making of culturally relevant and inspired architecture," he says "We encourage everyone involved in the project to share this ambition."