House at Prickly Rocks

Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia
O'Connor and Houle
Earl Carter

Along the coast in Victoria, Australia sits a house that at once contrasts and blends with the jagged landscape. Designed by Melbourne-based firm O'Connor and Houle, the dwelling is a contemporary nod to the extreme weather and scenery of its setting.

On first impression, the dwelling is a mass of clean grey that seems to interrupt the sandy rocks and clear blue sky above. The only hint of softness on the front facade is the massive wooden door, inviting the user to enter the threshold.

The grey facade is composed of concrete, as much a functional move as aesthetic. The sturdy concrete walls form an energy efficient building envelope—a necessary defense against the extreme conditions in this part of Australia. Past the front door, one is greeted with an elevated courtyard swathed in green. The courtyard is as practical as the concrete facade: the courtyard a perfect sanctuary during unsavory weather. The soft grass calls to mind the surrounding landscape, a contemporary nod to the home's location in a wooded area. In a private area in the back of the site sits an inviting pool. Narrow and reflecting the bright blue of the summer sky, the pool is an oasis that draws the mind to the nearby coast.

Another gesture to the scenic setting is the wood boards that lay along the border, creating little gathering spaces in the shade of the dwelling. The same style of wood runs up the facade in several areas, incorporating a warmth that is not apparent at the entrance. This is the nature of the duality of House at Prickly Rocks: the cool grey concrete and the warm wood don't seem to go together, but the contrast works well in this case.

The interior is similarly styled. Concrete and wood are the dominant materials. The ratio of these materials is reversed here, however, with the polished concrete taking centre stage and the wood acting as a supporting player. The furniture, in neutral tones, nearly blends in with the architecture. Again, the contrast of these materials works beautifully. Select openings in each room offer glimpses of the outside world, bringing nature into the space.

In the shop