Designed by architect Billy Maynard, House at Flat Rock is an ode to the laid-back, unpretentious life of the sleepy beachside town of Bendalong.
As Billy Maynard spent significant time on the site, he was able to appreciate the challenges and opportunities it presented. With a limited area of just 600 square meters, the challenge lay in creating a sense of openness to the landscape and intimacy within. The result is a discreet series of volumes that stretch along three edges of the site, with public spaces pushed to the back and private spaces along one edge. Two smaller volumes contain storage and utilities, while the garden is the still center around which the house orbits. The material palette of brick, Corten steel, and timber complements the tones and textures of the bush, receding into the mature trees.
As you approach the House at Flat Rock, it's easy to mistake it for a lush meadow, with its dense plant life that spills out onto the street. The mature olive trees that stand to the fore of the site and the looming presence of Conjola National Park to the west complete the feeling of immersion in nature. A narrow, stone-paved path that links the two runs along the northern edge of the meadow, defining the context in which the building is experienced.
The entrance to the house is a drawn-out, controlled sequence that channels Aldo van Eyck's idea that "architecture is built homecoming." You walk down the path alongside the courtyard, beneath a paper-thin steel awning before arriving at the front door. Only hints, such as the unique plate steel roof, give any indication of the exceptional level of detail and craft that has been applied. The hand grasps a custom cast bronze leather-wrapped handle designed by Scott Fellows of Studio Henry Wilson, and on stepping over the threshold, one experiences a moment of concentrated interiority. The ceiling is lowered, and the elongated door detail admits an extra sliver of light as it draws shut. The full-height slit window in the dark vestibule is a reference to painter Colin McCahon's work, which enhances the delirium of light in a monochromic space.
The grand public room is the theatre of social life, and the manipulation of light heightens the sense of anticipation before reaching it. As one moves from darkness into the light, the double-height ceiling, expansive openings to both sides, and improbably thin rafters overhead offer a dramatic experience of decompression. The room is shaped by light, with substantial structural elements animated and dematerialized by it. The occupant is situated between bush on one side and garden on the other, with fenestration of cinematic proportion creating a keenly felt immersion in nature.
The 2020 bushfire that devastated the region is a dramatic reminder of the condition that the architecture was designed to mediate. The environment of House at Flat Rock is marked by the threat of bushfire, and Billy's design takes this into account. The house is so carefully inconspicuous from the street that it only becomes apparent in the dark vestibule. The architecture of House at Flat Rock is a remarkable example of how, with humility and restraint, a home can create a complete immersion in nature.