Lobster Bay House is one of Ian McKay’s best residential designs. Picture: Michael Wee

Site Overview

site name:
Lobster Bay House
Ian McKay
date of commission:
date of completion:
Pretty Beach, NSW
protection status/heritage listing
Australian Institute of Architects (NSW Chapter) Register of Significant Buildings


Designed in 1971, and built 1972, this house at Lobster Bay NSW is an intact seminal work by architect Ian Mackay. The geometric sculptural form of the house perches atop a rock outcrop, its form piercing the sky in contrast to the surrounding flowing angophora, sturdy eucalyptus and weathered sandstone of the adjoining Bouddi National Park. It is approached by a steep unmade vehicular track and meandering pathways. A structurally expressive geometric interior frames the tree-filtered views of the bay and the sky. A centralised plan form, reminiscent of Asian architecture, focusses on the primitive energy of the family living area and hearth with the children’s sleeping platform hovering safely in the apex of the roof above.

The house was designed as a retreat for the celebrated photographer David Moore and is strongly geometric in form with intersecting planes that provide a dynamic composition resembling a “deconstructed’ pyramid.  Bands of glass separate the planes and provide a diversity of light penetration into the interior. The structure is timber with corrugated fibrous cement cladding. Two large columns support the exposed and glazed trusses. The interior is lined in timber and hardwood.

Text adapted from an entry by Mary Knaggs in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson).

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