The Austinmer Beach House . A highly sustainable agenda delivers delight rather than enforced , regulation-driven necessity . Tuned for optimum performance and bristling with energy saving features , the project utilises Viridian ’ s brilliant double-glazing to contribute an abiding sense of place .
The emerging Sydney architect Alex Symes could claim to have embraced the dark side in his latest role as facade engineer . Quickly dispelling such ideas , the creator of the Austinmer Beach House on the NSW south-coast reveals a thoroughly illuminated mind .
His ability to fuse the freehand of architecture with complex mathematical modelling results in a house sparkling with light and fully connected to its environment . Legible and adaptable , the house is a new take on the beloved beach shack . Symes ’ version is a world away from the ground-hogging box packed onto site without regard to place .
Sixty-five kilometres south of Sydney , the onetime fishing and coal-mining township of Austinmer is being re-discovered for its extraordinary beauty . Symes ’ cliff top house , at the base of the towering Illawarra Escarpment , is one of the few that appears so in tune with its setting .
“ Many architects believe they need to find every solution , but it ’ s really an integrated , crossdisciplinary challenge ,” observes Symes whose design brings into alignment such artful form , precise engineering and skilful construction .
On three levels with underground parking and accommodation it is the ground plane and upper level with a J-curve plan that helps generate a cinematic relationship with the ocean .
Reinforcing the client ’ s hopes and ambitions , Symes says he encouraged a bold environmental strategy . The result is a model of flexibility open and permeable with a series of sliding edges on the ground floor made possible with retractable glass walls . The upper floor is a tour de force of detailing animated by gill-like windows that provide valuable shade and scoop ocean views .
Following the sound dictum of not being everything to everyone , Symes employed a project engineer rather than ‘ do it all ’ himself . “ You want to avoid a tug-of-war ,” he argues . “ The best results occur when we all work together .” He says the two disciplines often exist as parallel strands rather than entwine as one .
His current role at Arup has Symes immersed in the technical complexities of tower façade systems and energy modelling . While these complexities and dizzy heights appear a world away from his