A Concrete Home Inspired by Historic Brutalist Structures Rises in Western Australia

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By Melissa Dalton
The Roscommon House draws on local history to combine undulating concrete walls with a timber-clad interior and exterior pocket courtyards.

For Neil Cownie Architects, the design of Roscommon House started with research into what made the site unique. The first feature that stood out was the area's legacy of modernist and brutalist buildings. 

"As I began the design process for Roscommon House, the iconic Brutalist concrete shell roof structure of the suburb’s Surf Life Saving Building was demolished, and the local council threatened to demolish the much-loved Brutalist concrete South City Beach Kiosk," Cownie said. "This blatant disregard and misunderstanding by the local authority of the importance of the suburb's unique architectural heritage led me to take particular inspiration from those two buildings."

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Said Cownie: "I felt a responsibility to produce a design for this new house that not only served the needs and desires of my clients but was also in conversation with the ethos of the suburb, without mimicking or replicating the past." The strong form of the street-facing facade is fashioned from board-formed concrete, and a solar array  is tucked on the roof.

Said Cownie: "I felt a responsibility to produce a design for this new house that not only served the needs and desires of my clients but was also in conversation with the ethos of the suburb, without mimicking or replicating the past." The strong form of the street-facing facade is fashioned from board-formed concrete, and a solar array is tucked on the roof.

The firm took a photographic survey of the remaining modernist buildings in the area, finding seventy still intact. They then studied their common characteristics to draw inspiration for Roscommon House.

Its location in a "garden suburb" five miles west of Perth, the capital of Western Australia, was also an important influence. This "garden suburb" was created in the 1960s and it incorporates wide blocks and substantial parklands. In order to honor that history, the landscaping at Roscommon House "blurs the boundaries of inside and out by the use of ‘pocket’ courtyards and roof terrace gardens," said Cownie.

Much of Roscommon House is single-story. With a total of 5,900 square feet of floor area, its footprint takes up the majority of the lot, so the architects cleverly sowed in green spaces wherever they could.

Much of Roscommon House is single-story. With a total of 5,900 square feet of floor area, its footprint takes up the majority of the lot, so the architects cleverly sowed in green spaces wherever they could.

According to the architects, "the spatial arrangement of the ‘pocket’ courtyards is also driven by environmental concerns: the building is teased apart to maximize winter solar penetration and to capture prevailing cooling breezes."

According to the architects, "the spatial arrangement of the ‘pocket’ courtyards is also driven by environmental concerns: the building is teased apart to maximize winter solar penetration and to capture prevailing cooling breezes."

For the interior, Cownie emphasized material consistency and the handmade. The design carries the exterior concrete finish inside, where it meets timber cabinetry and walls, as well as bespoke lighting and furnishings designed by the firm.

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At the custom front door, textured wood is accented with un-lacquered brass to encourage patina with use.

At the custom front door, textured wood is accented with un-lacquered brass to encourage patina with use.

The master bedroom suite sits upstairs and accesses the roof terrace, while the remaining living spaces and bedrooms lie on the main level. There is also a basement. The wall cladding and cabinetry throughout is fashioned in engineered timber from ABODO's Elements range. The engineered wood floors are by Mafi.

The master bedroom suite sits upstairs and accesses the roof terrace, while the remaining living spaces and bedrooms lie on the main level. There is also a basement. The wall cladding and cabinetry throughout is fashioned in engineered timber from ABODO's Elements range. The engineered wood floors are by Mafi.

In the living room, the wood and concrete shell is accented with a steel stair railing and a window wall with a Mondrian pattern in the glazing.

In the living room, the wood and concrete shell is accented with a steel stair railing and a window wall with a Mondrian pattern in the glazing.

The custom-designed pendant lights over the stairs echo the undulating recesses in the concrete ceiling. That sinuous motif is repeated in various ways throughout the project.

The custom-designed pendant lights over the stairs echo the undulating recesses in the concrete ceiling. That sinuous motif is repeated in various ways throughout the project.

The shape of the kitchen island "reflects the local iconic beachside concrete kiosk building saved by the community," said the architects.

The shape of the kitchen island "reflects the local iconic beachside concrete kiosk building saved by the community," said the architects.

A curved ceiling gently hovers over the stricter lines of the wall paneling and inset shelves.

A curved ceiling gently hovers over the stricter lines of the wall paneling and inset shelves.

A rounded skylight over the stairs.

A rounded skylight over the stairs.

The architects brought the undulating lines outside with the pool's shape and overhead awning.

The architects brought the undulating lines outside with the pool's shape and overhead awning.

"Through the design of Roscommon House and through our community engagement, we are taking every opportunity to create an appreciation and awareness of the unique architecture of this area to both the local community and to the local authority," said Cownie. Most importantly, the firm's research has imbued Roscommon House with a "strong sense of belonging" to its site.

Project Credits

Architect of Record, Interior Design: Neil Cownie Architect / @neilcowniearchitect

Builder: Mosman Bay Construction

Structural Engineer: Cenit Structural

Landscape Design: Plan E Landscape Architects

Cabinetry: Samuel Cabinetry

Photography: Robert Frith, Jack Lovel, and Michael Nicholson