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Topological Mathematical House

The Klein Bottle House was designed by the Australian architect team Rob McBride & Debbie-Lyn Ryan for McBride Charles Ryan Architects. This fantastic modern house was the Category Winner at the World Architecture Festival in 2009. This holiday house is situated on the Mornington Peninsula, a 1.5 hrs drive from Melbourne in Australia.

This holiday home is situated in heavily treed sand dunes directly behind 16th beach at Rye. There was in this home to be the sense of arriving at a natural and built environment which was unique and in complete contrast to the owner’s city home.

We began with the idea of the spiral, an acknowledgment of the end of the weekend journey to the beach. An Australian icon, McIntyre’s 1950’s Snellman House came to mind. As the project developed we carefully considered where the building should be located, its relationship to the prevailing winds, and possible points of entry, topography and vegetation. Subjected to numerous distortions, the topology of the spiral gave way to the topological classic The Klein Bottle.

We were keen to remain topologically pure, to distort the shape as need dictates but not to appear to sever this form. We were attracted to the idea of the origami version of the Klein bottle, not just because it was able to be approximated in cement sheet (the resonance with the ubiquitous 1950s fibro shack was compelling) but both because of its beauty and the perversity of an origami Klein Bottle. To accommodate ‘rooms’ within the bottle we thought of them like objects inserted (the ship) within the bottle.

The mathematician’s complex topological surfaces like the Klein bottle are appealing to us and many architects. They look like the new architecture of the computer age, and hold the promise of new form and spatial sequence. Radically they merge the floor, wall and ceiling, inside and outside. The fact that there are so few examples is evidence that they are actually almost impossible to achieve in reality. In this project, the Klein bottle was the perfect fit to the constraints of the site. Once adopted, the shape of this building had something of a life of its own, the genie was out and she was difficult to temper. The development was intense, the serious pursuit of joyful nonsense. The result we think is a unique shape and internal space, an unexpected entry sequence and series of new relationships between the traditional components of the home. The process was also a reminder that architecture does not spring naturally from place, and yet it is the beautiful abstract idea, that when carefully selected and developed can suddenly seem as natural as the tee tree that surrounds it.

The building required extensive use of 3d software for both its development and eventual execution. The building is largely steel framed, the complexity of which required our office to develop representations for use in the shop drawing and production process. The building is a lightweight structure largely clad in cement and metal sheet, incombustible and lightweight these materials meet stringent fire overlays. The building harvests water, is double glazed and the large cavities between the external and internal cladding allow packing with bulk insulation. The central courtyard adds cooling and cross ventilation, Windows are hardwood, Flooring bamboo and artificial lighting selected for its efficiency.

Photographs by John Gollings - Gollings Photography

McBride Charles Ryan Architecture