John Richards, of
Michael & Manuela Darling —
Creating our new house has been an extraordinary experience. Something of a long-term ambition, it became a very rewarding...
When our children left home, it prompted a lifestyle reassessment. We sold our traditional family home of 26 years for a dream of moving to Bondi.
The sudden availability of a site on Ben Buckler, one of only 10 that lead to the water, gave us the chance. We decided to demolish the small existing apartment building, crumbling with the effects of age and exposure, and start again.
Rather than a beach house, we envisioned more of a town house by the sea like a merchant house you might find in a Mediterranean port. It would be our new city home and a place our children and their children could visit and enjoy.
We asked Nick Tobias of Tobias Partners (who is, incidentally, our son-in-law) to handle the project. We had worked happily and effectively with Nick on other projects and he knows how we live. Together with his team, we worked through the design and approval process before starting demolition and excavation.
A crisis arose just as excavations completed and our first builder was forced into receivership through no fault of his own. Nick had worked with Bellevarde before, thought highly of them and recommended we use them for the balance of the project. Fortunately, Bellevarde could start work straight away and an association began which was professional, enjoyable and highly satisfying.
Our block is in a very exposed position with tidal waters covering the rock footing of the lower terrace daily. From the outset, Bellevarde were focused on the strength and integrity of the building and their attention to detail was apparent right up to completion.
Bellevarde worked very productively with the Architect from Tobias Partners, John Richards. John shares their respect for the building process. As a team, they delivered... big time.
We came to understand there was a “Bellevarde Way” of doing things which ensured they were done to the highest standards. From their site office in a garage nearby, Site Manager Daniele Feltracco and Site Administrator Lewis Townsend oversaw every detail of the build, throwing themselves into the work whenever needed. Sub-contractors were carefully vetted and rigorously supervised. Even the initial concrete formwork looked like a work of art.
We are delighted with the result and genuinely enjoyed the journey as much as the destination. Despite the inevitable ups and downs of a complex build, we regard Bellevarde’s work with great respect and deep thanks for a job well done.
John Fielding (who followed the job closely, contributing his extensive experience), Daniele, Lewis and the team were a pleasure to work with, true professionals.
Now we can enjoy the result.
John Richards, of
Tobias Partners —
When our first builder withdrew from the project team and Bellevarde came on board, we were warned, ‘strap yourselves in’...
by our managing principal, John Barker, ‘working with these guys is going to be very different.' It was indeed.
We soon learned something about their attention to detail when site manager Daniele insisted all the plywood formwork be cut off-site in a joinery shop. He followed up with a wonderfully detailed 'jigsaw-puzzle' of a plan that outlined every formwork piece – there must have been thousands. Building in off-form concrete can be unforgiving, because it's essentially precision joinery in negative form, but doing it the Bellevarde way gave us a lot more control over everything that followed.
Even more importantly, a mutual trust and confidence developed that freed us to re-imagine many other elements as the house evolved.
The entrance awnings were originally designed in metal, to be bolted on, but during construction this was re-considered. By working closely with Bellevarde, we were able to develop a concrete cantilever that felt a lot more integrated into the main structure. Daniele and I must have traded dozens of refinements back and forth. In the end, his skill and determination played a big part in achieving such a beautiful and seamless result.
The interior stairs, all five levels, were also re-designed in the midst of the build. Daniele applied some real 'out of the box' thinking, developing a bespoke mould that allowed ferrules to be cast directly into the stair treads and walls. This clever design tweak produced a sharper and more slender riser, lending a light and an airy feel to the space.
When it came to the overall form of the building, everyone agreed it should be monolithic. Traditional concrete pour breaks can blemish an off-form concrete building, making it look over-articulated. Of course, Daniele and the Bellevarde team had another inspired solution - an intricate system of rebates and concealed form-ties to hide the pour lines and structural ties. This was something of an exploratory process and no-one really knew if it could be achieved on this scale. We needn't have worried. It was exquisitely executed. Looking at it now, it’s difficult even for me to recall where the pours start and stop.
Working with Bellevarde is certainly an experience that is unique and exhilarating. John has surrounded himself with exceptionally capable, intelligent people who care passionately about projects with which they are charged and take great pride in realising them to the best of their potential.
I'd like to thank Daniele Feltracco, Lewis Townsend and the Bellevarde team for encouraging and challenging us and working collaboratively with us every step of the way to build something very special.