Glen Isla House by Bryant Alsop Architects

Glen Isla House by Bryant Alsop

Architects: Bryant Alsop Architects
Project: Glen Isla House
Location: Mount Martha, Victoria, Australia
Area: 293.00 sqm
Photography: Jack Lovel

Designed for a semi-retired couple [plus their whippet, Monty] and completed in December 2015, this three-bedroom house in Mount Martha provides a private haven to entertain guests that engages with the surrounding trees and bay views.

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The notion of a ‘weekender’ evokes images of architectural simplicity and isolation where owners can escape their weekday life and reconnect with themselves and their environment.

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Typically found in landscape-rich sites [think sand dunes, woodlands, rolling hills, etc] with the view “just there”; our challenge was to create this sense of retreat on a large but essentially suburban corner block in Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula. The inherent nature of the site was that whilst heavily treed and embedded in nature, the greatest connection to the view was only going to be made at first-floor level.

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Within the confines of a relatively simple brief, the Glen Isla house evolved around our clients love of food, wine and entertaining [as well as a sophisticated and extensive wine collection] tempered by their wish to be private and self-contained when guests are staying. This duality expresses itself in both the planning and the materiality of the house, and informed the initial architectural gestures when the design process began.

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The first of these was to pull the Glen Isla house as far into the corner of the site as possible, screening the rest of the block from neighbours and, being the high point, maximizing opportunities for the views across Port Phillip Bay towards the Melbourne CBD. The added benefit of this was to create a compact building footprint that scribes the edge of a large informal, native garden connected to the house via a long covered terrace stepping down to the lawn – a space to sit and take in the land as it falls away from the Glen Isla house.

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The journey through the Glen Isla house takes visitors along a timber-clad wall punctuated by slot windows framing views to the garden. The interior scheme of the ground floor reflects the formal materiality – solid, grounded concrete terraces and rendered block balanced with polished-concrete screed floors and charcoal coloured ceilings. This broodiness is punctuated by the organic shape of the green rendered cellar – a shot of colour repeated throughout the house. Floor to ceiling windows beyond draw diffuse light into the entry emphasizing the shape and texture of the cellar walls.

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Arriving at the top of the stairs, the ceiling rakes up and away – opening up the first views over Port Phillip Bay. This floor is where the majority of daily life occurs.

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It was important that the end result reflected the aspirations of the client more than the whim of the designer. Australian entertaining is easy and welcoming in these spaces. This is a house that has been designed to align with the day-to-day routines and nuances of our client’s in mind – one that can open up to accommodate a large cocktail party or close down for the two of them [and their dog] to enjoy a glass of wine in front of the fire in the middle of July.

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