Middleton Residence

Oceanic views

Summary

About the project

This striking beachside family home in Middleton SA, beautifully demonstrates how the perfect union of performance glazing and innovative framing technology can be used to create a house which seems organically wedded to its setting. The residence makes stunningly ambitious use of superior glazing technology throughout, elevating the home far above the traditional possibilities of a beach house.

Incorporating what initially seems to be an impossible level of glass within its internal structure, the Middleton house almost seems to reverse the traditional relationship between glazing and its supporting wall. Here, the oversized glazed systems are so extensive that the walls themselves fade into near invisibility. Freed from the surrounding opacity, each inhabitant’s eyes are liberated to fix themselves upon the location’s key drawcard – its spectacular coastal setting.

The architect, Nicholas Ingerson, was commissioned to design an extension to the original residence. The clients requested an addition to the first-floor sea-facing side of the house, extend the living room, and add a couple of bedrooms to the original plan. The overall concept was to give the occupants an absolutely clear line of vision to the sea, in multiple directions.

To make those solid walls dissolve into the landscape, each of those glazed sheets had to be mammoth. The biggest panel used in the entire house is 2400x5800mm, weighing over three-quarters of a tonne. Schüco AWS window suites were selected to hold this and other oversized glazed panels in place.

Coupled with this aesthetic aim, the project had to respond considerately to its surroundings. As the extension was being projected right out from the existing house, considering the neighbours’ visual privacy was essential. To meet compliance and respect privacy, the architects aimed to include as many unscreened windows as possible.

The extension centres on the two-storey stone fin projecting from the central house, with a glazed bedroom and dining room hanging off the entire structure on the first floor. However, the glazing’s sheer dimensions posed a seemingly unprecedented challenge from the outset.

When the architect began documenting the interior dimensions, they discovered the extension of the dining area was almost six metres wide. They immediately realised that installing a mullion in the middle of that window would kill the entire visual effect of an unbroken view of that landscape.

As Robbi Burdett from KR Installations clarifies, the installers were able to manufacture a 2.4m x 6m wide window for the dining room, weighing almost 800kg. ‘The new bedroom’s design fully immerses residents in the landscape, with the sheer volume of glazing in the room creates a “floating” effect that appears to suspend viewers above their picturesque environment,’ he observes.

The visual theme of openness is a dominant feature of the house’s immediate effect on the viewer. This is perfectly expressed by the clever use of stackable glazed doors lining the balcony, providing significant light ingress while respecting the floorplan’s peerless flexibility. Natural light from the beachside aspect flows throughout the open plan living spaces, illuminating residents.

The stackable Schüco door system offers a unique way of admitting light without sacrificing energy efficiency. Adding to the effect of those colossal glazed wall panels, the door system further opens the house up to its surroundings.

A house which seems virtually constructed with glass might seem an unlikely candidate for a highly energy-efficient building – but the Middleton house has achieved extremely challenging energy retention requirements to achieve its 6-star rating. All windows and doors throughout are double-glazed, complemented by the Schüco systems’ superior insulating features.

The inventiveness of the window specification shines through. The governing idea in the house’s design was to keep air circulation at a maximum, allowing the possibility of petitioning areas when required. A large part of this goal was achieved through the installation of Schüco sliding doors, which efficiently divide the spaces without introducing a visual barrier.

Selective placement of window areas throughout the new build demonstrates the use of innovative glazing. Clerestory windows look down from the bedroom, throwing additional light into the house. The token window in the sunken bedroom was installed to admit multidirectional light into the room, avoiding the shadows cast by a single light source.

A similarly active approach was taken to visual continuity outside, with the original balustrade removed and replaced with cantilevered glass. The Building Code calls for any windows or balconies up to 1.7m to be screened from neighbours’ properties. In this case, the only neighbour vulnerable to being looked over was off to one side, which resulted in the big stone wall being built through the entire structure.

The 4.4m bedroom window closely matched the major pane of glazing in the living room. There’s also a retreat next to the split-level bedroom. All major windows feature motorised curtains, which can be activated when required.

The level of ambition featured in this superb beachside home may seem extreme, but the results speak for themselves. With the architect’s clear vision and perseverance driving the glazing specification, it’s a triumph for the residents which offers the full rewards of a sustainable beach lifestyle.

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