Multi-generational family holiday home is a beacon of architecture with maritime influences and innovative configuration

Location, location, practicality: Stunning views, contemporary design, and a statement in architecture are the hallmarks of Cloud House on the Mandurah Channel, WA. Photos: Robert Frith.
Location, location, practicality: Stunning views, contemporary design, and a statement in architecture are the hallmarks of Cloud House on the Mandurah Channel, WA. Photos: Robert Frith.

Imagine an extended family wanting to share their holiday experience together without cramping each other's style, yet able to come together to enjoy a whole family event - all in the one home.

Cloud House 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.

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.

The home is intended to provide a sense of fun and theatre in a departure from everyday suburban living as the building draws on its location through the use of nautical navigational colours of red, blue and green and the red clouds of the setting sun over the adjacent Indian Ocean.

While the house was designed for holiday use, it also serves as a model for potential everyday living for multi-generational families as it sleeps 17 people under the one roof.

The vertical zoning allows opportunities for spaces to relate between floors to enable the family to holiday together as one if they so choose.

Architect Neil Cownie 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 backdrop to the daily 'theatre and drama' of the adjacent public boat ramp.

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 wharves of Sydney Harbour 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 vertical treatment of the building where sea container-like panels are set within the robust structural grid.

The immediate nautical environment of the marina is referenced in the colours of the window awnings and external roller blinds.

Importantly these blinds also bring a layering of privacy to the occupants, along with providing sun and wind protection to the predominantly west-facing building.

The building's appearance changes as blinds open and close to either appear as a solid object or a series of recesses or voids in the facade when a blind is opened.

The rectilinear form of the building itself is countered by the free-form red concrete roof, intended to hover over the top of the building as though it is a cloud.

The cloud reference continues on the interior of the building where curvaceous ceilings roll through like the underside of a cloud.

The nautical colours of the exterior feature internally on door panels, ladders, and cabinetwork.

Internal living spaces connect to the exterior as though they are a balcony themselves, while highlight windows allow north-eastern light to penetrate through the central void.