"Cooinda", an indigenous word meaning "a happy place" is an apt name for this contemporary beach house that acts as a private getaway for a large extended family on Magnetic Island, off the coast of Townsville in North Queensland.
According to Counterpoint Architecture, who designed this project, the greatest success of Cooinda House is the way in which it works just as well for a couple as it does for large family gatherings.
Situated near the Nelly Belly beachfront, glancing views to the ocean are possible, but Counterpoint note that this beach house is not about dominating a view. Evident in their christening of the house Cooinda, for the clients this project was about enjoying the island lifestyle, and creating a place to connect for all generations of their family.
Counterpoint said that during the design process, the client's brief rapidly expanded from a humble beach house designed for a couple, to a significantly larger building accommodating large multi-generational family groups. This resulted in a need for five bedrooms, four bathrooms, two separate living spaces and a pool.
The design challenge for Counterpoint was therefore to effortlessly accommodate this brief, while retaining a sense of simplicity and casual beach house living.
According to Counterpoint, the key design move was to create a central, double height outdoor room around which all of the functions of the house are arranged. This space creates connections between all spaces, and also becomes a key social gathering space. Bedrooms and a rumpus room are contained within two storey volumes towards the rear of the site, linked back to living spaces by an open stairway and verandah walkways.
Counterpoint also created what they describe as a single storey 'public' living pavilion occupying the street frontage, scaling down the house to the street and creating opportunities for casual connections with passers-by, and glancing views towards the ocean.
The floor level of the house is elevated 1.5 metres above natural ground level to mitigate risks of storm surge and flooding. This level also creates a comfortable balance of prospect from the living pavilion, while maintaining a welcoming connection to the street.
Materials used to build the house are varied and generally robust and simple in detail: an expressed galvanised steel structure, charred timber cladding, Colorbond profiled metal, hardwood decking, and fibre cement and cover battens. Aluminium angle screening provides security to the outdoor room and can open extensively when the house is in use.
According to Counterpoint, steel was the natural choice for the design of Cooinda House, as the Magnetic Island site is in close proximity to the coast in a cyclonic region. An elevated steel construction achieves the necessary floor levels to mitigate storm surge risk, and was the logical structural system to achieve the desired simplicity and openness of a beach house, while withstanding cyclonic conditions.
Counterpoint explain that the steel structure was prefabricated on the mainland and shipped across to the island, which enabled fast progress in constructing the structural frame. Carpenters based on the island then completed the infill work, while many of the specialist trades came from Townsville, travelling to and from to work on the house.
Cooking and entertaining is integral to the family's lifestyle, and in response, Counterpoint said their design creates a flow between a conventional kitchen in the living pavilion, a barbecue zone in the central outdoor room, and a pizza oven space out the front - the use of which is a true signal celebration of the house when it's in expansive entertainment mode.