Cloud House, Mandurah Holiday Real Estate, Western Australia Architecture Development, Photography
Cloud House in Mandurah
14 Feb 2021
Design: Neil Cownie Architect
Location: Mandurah, Western Australia
This apartment-style holiday house allows four generations of the same family to enjoy a holiday together, or alternatively it allows family to enjoy parts of the house separately while on holiday at the same time. The house is a model for how families could enjoy every day living, not just a holiday experience, with the extended family accommodated independently within different zones of one building.
The design of Cloud House strives to provide a ‘sense of belonging’ for its owners and with a ‘sense of place’ to ground the building within its context. The site is located in the South Western corner of Australia within the Aboriginal Noongar Nation, and specifically within the Pinjarup language group of the Noongar people. Central to the creator beliefs of the Noongar people is the Wagyl, a large snake-like creature that was created by the Rainbow Serpent. The Wagyl was tasked to create, then protect, the rivers, lakes, and wetlands. The Wagyl made its way along the coast before giving birth to its young in the estuary, being the vast waterway of the Peel Inlet, an area of water equivalent to the size of Sydney Harbor.
This makes the Peel Inlet a place of significance as the Wagyl’s young grew within the waters of the Inlet before leaving to create the surrounding waterways.
The site of Cloud House is located adjacent to the Mandurah Channel, being the pivotal point at which the Wagyl came out of the Indian Ocean to create the vast waterways of the Peel Inlet. The fluidity of elements of the building are intended to show a respectful acknowledgement of the creator beliefs of the Noongar nation as much as they represent the playful interpretation of clouds.
Cloud House is intended to provide a sense of fun and theatre in a departure from everyday suburban living as the building draws upon its location through the use of nautical navigational colours of red, blue and green in the external roller blinds, and the red clouds of the setting sun over the adjacent Indian Ocean which are reflected in the hovering red freeform concrete ‘cloud’ over the top of the building. The building enjoys views to the marina, ocean and the local boat ramp.
Cloud House is a multi-generational holiday house, provided in the typology of an apartment building. The holiday house has been designed for flexible use where the entire family can holiday together, or alternatively a couple can enjoy an intimate weekend away by themselves while using only a portion of the building.
This house sleeps seventeen people as it accommodates four generations of the one family. While the house was designed for holiday use, the design also serves as a model for potential everyday living for multi-generational families under the one roof. The multi-generational family is accommodated in an ‘apartment’ typology where vertical zoning allows independent living.
The vertical zoning allows opportunities for spaces to relate between floors to enable the family to holiday together as one if they so choose.
So ‘let’s do the maths’;
227 square meters is the area of the average Western Australian home which accommodates an average of 2.6 people. That equates to your average WA home providing 87.3 square meters per person.
My client’s family lives in four separate suburban homes. Four times the average WA house area adds up to a combined area of 908 square meters.
Whereas Cloud House, accommodating seventeen people with a total area of 493 square meters, provides just 29 square meters of building per person.
The Cloud House model offers an efficient and economical alternative for multi-generational living.
We took the opportunity to create an iconic ‘bookend’ building as the site is open to the public realm on three sides at the end of an underwhelming row of marina front houses.
In seeking a relevant design language for this locality, the design of Cloud House was intended to form a theatrical stage set backdrop to the daily ‘theatre and drama’ of the adjacent public boat ramp. The building was envisaged to provide a commentary about its own ‘place making’ as public theatre.
It was necessary to first look further afield than the immediate locality to find an appropriate maritime framework to hold the elements of the design of the building together. The finger wharfs of Sydney harbour with their robust structural grids were a reference point for the concrete structural frame work of Cloud House. The work of artist Jeffrey Smart was also an influence in the elevational treatment of the building where sea container like panels are set within the robust structural grid.
Then came the fun, as after all, this is a holiday house where the intention was to provide the family with a joyful holiday destination that makes a distinction from their everyday suburban living. The immediate nautical environment of the marina has been referenced in the use of the maritime navigation colours of green, red and blue which are expressed in the window awnings and external roller blinds. The roller blinds form a tapestry which reference the sails & flags of the yachts in the marina. The blinds make the building come alive as the appearance of the building is constantly changing with the opening and closing of individual blinds creating elevations of both solid and void. Importantly these blinds also bring a layering of privacy to the occupants of the building in what is a very public location, along with providing sun and wind protection from the predominantly west facing building.
The building responds to the conflict of major views to the west while dealing with the environmental factors of sun and wind along with privacy from the adjacent public open space through the use of the coloured external roller blinds.
The buildings appearance changes as blinds open and close, to either appear as a solid object when closed, or to reveal a series of recesses or voids in the façade when a blind is opened.
The changing tapestry of blinds reflects the nature of signals being sent by nautical flags. By night the building is a navigational outpost, like a lighthouse, sending signals to the boats on the ocean entering the adjacent entry into the Mandurah Channel.
The rectilinear form of the building itself is countered by the freeform concrete roof, intended to hover upon the top of the building as though it is a cloud. This cloud referencing speaks of the buildings place, where the colourful red and orange clouds of the setting sun are frequently found to the west of the house over the Indian ocean.
The cloud referencing continues through to the interior of the building where curvaceous ceilings roll through like the underside of a cloud. The nautical colour of the exterior finds its way internally to door panels, ladders, and cabinetwork highlights.
Internal living spaces connect to the exterior as though they are a balcony themselves, while highlight windows allow north-eastern light to penetrate down through the central void space.
Juliet balconies and balconies surround living spaces on all sides and allow maintenance and cleaning of the windows in the harsh salt ridden environment.
If you have ever experienced launching a boat from a public boat ramp, you will realise that boat ramps are places of high drama and theatre.
With a public boat ramp less than 50 meters away, Cloud House itself becomes part of the theatre and drama as it provides an ever-changing backdrop to the drama of the boat launching.
Cloud House in Mandurah, Australia – Building Information
Architecture & Interior Design: Neil Cownie Architect
Project size: 493
Site size: 242
Completion date: 2018
Building levels: 3
Photography: Robert Frith
Cloud House, Mandurah, Western Australia images / information received 140221
Location: Mandurah, Western Australia
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