Klein Bottle House
PROJECTS  /  Klein Bottle House

Klein Bottle House

Mornington Peninsula
McBride Charles Ryan
John Gollings

There was in this home to be the sense of arriving at a natural and built environment which was unique and in complete contrast to the owner’s city home.

We began with the idea of the spiral, an acknowledgment of the end of the weekend journey to the beach..An Australian icon, McIntyre’s 1950’s Snellman House came to mind. As the project developed we carefully considered where the building should be located, its relationship to the prevailing winds, and possible points of entry, topography and vegetation.

Subjected to numerous distortions, the topology of the spiral gave way to the topological classic The Klein Bottle. We were keen to remain topologically pure, to distort the shape as need dictates but not to appear to sever this form. We were attracted to the idea of the origami version of the Klein bottle, not just because it was able to be approximated in cement sheet but both because of its beauty and the perversity of an origami Klein Bottle.

To accommodate ‘rooms’ within the bottle we thought of them like objects inserted (the ship) within the bottle.

The mathematician’s complex topological surfaces like the Klein bottle are appealing to us and many architects.

They look like the new architecture of the computer age, and hold the promise of new form and spatial sequence. Radically they merge the floor, wall and ceiling, inside and outside. The fact that there are so few examples is evidence that they are actually almost impossible to achieve in reality. In this project, the Klein bottle was the perfect fit to the constraints of the site.

The result we think is a unique shape and internal space, an unexpected entry sequence and series of new relationships between the traditional components of the home. The process was also a reminder that architecture does not spring naturally from place, and yet it is the beautiful abstract idea, that when carefully selected and developed can suddenly seem as natural as the tee tree that surrounds it. 

The building is a lightweight structure largely clad in cement and metal sheet, incombustible and lightweight these materials meet stringent fire overlays. The building harvests water, is double glazed and the large cavities between the external and internal cladding allow packing with bulk insulation.

The central courtyard adds cooling and cross ventilation, Windows are hardwood, Flooring bamboo and artificial lighting selected for its efficiency.

This weekend house is located on heavily ti-treed sand hills adjacent the ocean beach in Rye.  Its spiral configuration is a spatial device which responds to the difficult topography, it is also a figure rich in coastal allusions.

By passing the spiral back through itself the house has become the mathematical concept of the Klein Bottle. This strategy has unlocked a new series of relationships and sequential spatial experience. The 'contents' of the 'bottle' are a rectilinear platform and walls which make the abstract geometry inhabitable.

A dramatic stair winds around an internal courtyard picking up the bedrooms of the house as it ascends, the journey ending in the great living room.

Externally the building is predominantly clad in cement sheeting, simultaneously recalling both folded origami, tents and the ubiquitous 'fibro-shack'. The building is supported on a traditional timber stud frame - pushed to its physical limit.

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