House Holman

It's not often that you're able to compare a painting with a work of architecture, but i thought i'd take the opportunity to do so with House Holman, constructed in 2004 near Sydney, Australia.

This house has received a lot of attention due to its dramatic siting, and its unusual for a house, even one with a substantial budget, to live up to such a site, much less to exceed it.  The house is perched on a 70 meter cliff overlooking the ocean in what is otherwise a completely unremarkable suburb.  You will never see pictures of this house from the street, because the house is sited so as to rid itself of its mundane neighbors.

The designers, Durbach Block Architects, have said the inspiration for the house came from "The Bathers", a painting by Picasso i was unfamiliar with.

"The Bathers" 1918

Picasso did another work called "The Bathers" in the '50s, but i see more of this painting in the house than the later piece, so i'm assuming it to be the painting from 1918.  Its easier to understand the link between the house and the painting if you see the plans:

Level 2

Level 1

The most notable feature of the painting is the composition of the figures.  Two of them are resting on the beach, and belong to it compositionally as their figures are mostly enveloped by the beach.  The third figure, by contrast, is standing and expressively enchanted with her visit to the beach, with arms undone and playing with her hair as she gazes upward .  She breaks the edge of the beach and that of the horizon, as if to express her joy as a limitless one, belonging more to the clouds than the earth, pointedly expressed here by her white striped bathing suit foretelling the clouds above.  Her suit is blue, and here again Picasso identifies her as belonging more to the sea and sky than the earth below.

House Holman, like the figures in the painting, is both anchored to the earth and fleeing to the sea and sky, as you can deduce by the plans above and the pictures below.  It seems also, i think, to express as much joy as the woman in the painting.

The beautiful, sinuous forms of the Living/Dining spaces (02, 03 in plans above), dancing on a couple of columns and extending to the sea and sky in two different directions, have a dual nature in that they also inform the inflected space below (10), carved into the earth/context below and referencing a cave in its form, so as to reconcile earth and sky.  This same spacial device is also used to define the courtyard space that leads to the pool, where the apparently free form of the living space is disciplined into a conforming part of a semi-circular formal court that appears to emerge from the edge of the cliff, along which one walks on the stepped approach from the pool, and again reconciling earth and sky; the nature of a cliff.

The approach to the court

Living space setting up the formal court to the right

Entrance from Courtyard

View from Kitchen to Courtyard

Sea and sky

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