Portsea House by Wood Marsh sits in stark contrast to its clipped super-suburban neighbours. The abstract blackened timber façade hovers over a rammed earth retaining wall, concealing a luxurious other-world within. This is not so much a house as a venue or club, primed for entertaining and social gathering. The external street frontage contains a coarse native landscape and ambiguous scale that challenges the self-important grandeur of the street, which over time will blur boundaries between allotments, private and public. Here, common big-house dilemmas on a limited site have been transformed and overcome through working at a sculptural and extended landscape scale.
Portsea House is a virtuoso study in the curved and free-flowing plan, the sinuous timber edge navigates the site, providing occupants and visitors alike with discreet internal wings and external folds in which to retreat, or perhaps become lost. Within, an ocular courtyard affords breathing space like a blowhole, forming an illusory miniature garden.
Although the downstairs space evolved as a happy consequence of construction, the resultant ‘birdcage’ and cave-like party-room exhibit a plush materiality and separation from reality that contrast and complement the open and logically expressive aesthetic of the meticulously planned first floor.
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