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Angophora House
PROJECTS  /  Angophora House

Angophora House

Location:
Sydney
Type:
House
Year:
2003
Architect:
Richard Leplastrier
Photographer:
Michael Nicholson

Angophora House represents a very rare opportunity to purchase a newly completed house that has been designed by one of the most highly respected architects and constructed by a team comprising the very finest craftsmen. Indeed, it has been described as such, ‘A piece of fine cabinetry for humans’.

The location of 33 Bellevue Avenue is equally beguiling. Sited on the Eastern tip of the extended grove of Angophoras that makes up the iconic Angophora Reserve in Avalon, the house is a pavilion-plan. The design has been informed by the location. Comprising six pavilions, they seemingly waltz in harmony with the existing Angophoras, creating a courtyard feel.

This house was designed by Richard Leplastrier. The owner and builder of the house has worked on a number of Richard’s houses. The relationship over the years has become one that is interwoven on a professional and personal level.

He states an utmost respect for the architect. Principally, he notes that Richard’s houses are designed to suit the environs of the site, subtly working with the history and all the elements to make a whole.

Sited with good vantage lookouts towards Bangally Headland, one can imagine small fires would be burning at night in this natural amphitheatre as the local aboriginal tribes cooked their meals from the day’s gathering. Plovers still call at night from what was a fresh water swamp, which is now Avalon Primary’s netball courts below the golf course.

Sheltered from the harsh southerlies in winter, in summer a cool north-easterly breeze ventilates this little valley with help from a canopy of Angophora leaves and remnant rainforest Lily Pilly. This creates a micro-climate that is about three degrees cooler than the temperature on the street.

Approached from Bellevue Avenue, a path leads down to the house weaving between Angophoras. As if on the start of a journey of discovery, the house gives little away. Brief glimpses give clues to a house that reveals itself ultimately in its details.

To enter the house one is drawn between the guest and main bedroom pavilion into the internal courtyard, down three steps to the front door, detailed with blue and yellow glass to either side. A signature detail of the architect.
Standing, looking back, there is undoubtedly a serenity that one immediately feels. The pavilions facing one another create a space that is one of reflection and perhaps even best described as ‘internalised’.

There is an order and a hierarchy to the design. The scales of the pavilions are quite different. One being just 1.3 x 3.2m, to the main living pavilion, comprising a three-storey tower that draws one up into the tree canopy.

Even though it is a highly designed space, the house feels relaxed and natural at every turn. The honesty of the material palette creates an easy relationship with the environment.

A series of floating decks with wooden steps join the main pavilions, creating a walkway between the spaces. One engages with the environment. This house is as far away from being an air-conditioned executive box as one can get. It lets you breathe.

The layout of the buildings has a practicality that slowly becomes apparent; the separation of the master bedroom; further bedrooms rising through the tree canopy; adjoining living and dining areas; and a multitude of uses for the guest pavilion. Equally, it could be a writing or painting studio, yoga or meditation room.

The simplicity of palette in materials and meticulous construction creates a soothing ‘easy on the eye’calmness. The architect has complimented the owner builder during the final construction phase saying that this quietness is very hard to achieve.

Integral to this is the detailing. And there are numerous details to speak of; the three-storey tower pavilion with external spiral staircase encapsulated in chrysalis-like form within the structure of a remnant rainforest Lilly Pilly.
The guest pavilion’s 6m x 4m floor, comprised of five slabs of Jarrah, the outside wain edge being retained showing the history of scrub fires that harassed the tree in life but now locked into a floor by stainless steel chains and mirroring our majestic Eastern Seaboard coastline.

Internally, exposed stud frame with Hoop Pine ply behind 40mm cavity to outside skin of deep ripple mini orb and red mahogany weatherboards, with windows and doors being framed by deep 210mm reveals. All sections, elevations and plans were drawn full size, then relayed to its timber counterpart.

Every component was connected through joinery and fixed either with marine epoxy (of which 60 kg was used) and/or hidden stainless steel screws. All timber was oiled with organ oil except in wet areas where marine finishes have been used.

There are many more details that surprise and delight; from the beautiful and robust solution for clearing the half pipe copper gutters; handmade copper sinks and light fittings down to the smallest of details such as the handmade whipped leather front door handle covers.

The property is perhaps best summed up by the current owners who say, ‘We have had great pleasure in living here and being a custodian of this iconic treasure. Unfortunately, we are passing the baton to someone else who I am sure will love and cherish this house. Numerous architectural students from all over Australia and from Gifu wood working university in Japan have seen this house and it has given them much pleasure, as I am sure it will for others into the future.’

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