Issue 29 Words: Rachael Bernstone Photography: Claudia Gabriel Lim
Elizabeth Beach, NSW
  • Using earth-based materials in a vertical section helped to minimise the need for concrete slab foundations while still offering stable thermal mass.
  • Despite the home’s number of occupants increasing during conception stage, Gavin remained committed to a modestly sized footprint.
  • The careful placement of doors and windows means the house captures prevailing breezes thanks to its elevated position on a hill.

Collaboration and experimentation helped Gavin Scott create a contemporary home of his own, using natural materials and traditional techniques to mirror its lush surrounds.

After travelling around Australia and internationally to hone his craft, designer and builder Gavin Scott chose to settle at Pacific Palms on the New South Wales coast. It’s a special place. A series of pristine beaches are backed by inland lakes and the narrow ribbon of land between them is dotted with pockets of unspoilt rainforest.

Drawing on his experience of sustainable design and building over the past 27 years, nature’s sculptural forms were the inspiration for Gavin’s own house. “I chose Elizabeth Beach because of my love of the water and local environment, and hoped to pay homage to that,” he says. The resulting curvaceous form seeks to reflect the landscape and the movement of a swimming fish.

Initially conceived as a bachelor pad, the scope of the house changed when Gavin met his partner and then with the news their first child was on the way. However, with size a key tenet of his approach to sustainability, Gavin was determined to keep it modest. “The house was initially designed as a two-bedroom house, as that was most appropriate for my budget and lifestyle at that time,” Gavin recalls. “Later, I realised that it would be hard to alter or add to – one of the disadvantages of an organic shape on a steep parcel of land – so I decided to modify the design before getting too far into the build.”

With time to revisit the plans, Gavin called on the help of friend and local architect Ian Sercombe to draw up the architectural plans and to help nut out some niggling issues. “We worked through the design together and having a second set of eyes allowed us to come up with a more resolved solution to what is a fairly complex concept.”

One of the most difficult elements to resolve – but one of the most impressive features in the completed house – is the sculptural metal roof, which folds up and down in various directions to allow sunlight to enter the house or be excluded, according to the season and orientation. The roof also hosts grid-interactive photovoltaic panels and a solar hot water system, and collects water for storage in a tank. “The roofline challenged everyone who saw it,” Gavin says, “but I felt it really was a reflection of its surroundings – flowing and twisting like the water, trees and leaves surrounding us.”

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Cover of Issue 29
You can read more about Unearthed in Issue 29 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Gavin Scott, EARTHBOUND design+construct, with assistance from architect Ian Sercombe.

Gavin Scott

Project type
New build

Project location
Elizabeth Beach, NSW

House 220 sqm
Land 984 sqm

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