Emerging from the sands of Port Douglas, Australia, the beachfront Mirage Estate by Charles Wright is a true work of mastery from a fresh name in the world of architecture. The Charles Wright House is a study in “helicoidal minimal surface geometry”, attributed to the same technique that the Wright Brothers of Kitty Hawk used in building their flying machines. Architect Charles Wright employed concepts familiar to many artists and photographers, specifically the diving proportion, the golden rectangle and golden spiral. To the layman, this means that hard geometry played a primary role in developing a house that is as beautiful and natural as it is mathematic.
It was developed as an investment for the client – the Wright family. This is where the conceptual framework emerged in the form of helicoidal minimal surface geometry – like that of the Wright brother’s first kite flyer, airfoils and even in the tail of a breaching southern right whale.
“We found the (w)right proportion in the Golden section and used the Fibonacci spiral dissection as a form of fractal design generator. The intention was to create a strange attractor, an enigmatic signifier – an extraordinary landmark that doesn’t look like anything identifiable.
The project attempts a democratic poetry as a result of conflicting forces & contradictions producing bizarre results.. Helicoidal twist was a generator for roof forms in conjunction with maximum & minimum prescribed roof pitches under the building covenants for the development. The maximum allowable plot ratio for the site resulted in the area under a Fibonacci dissection of a golden rectangle sized in accordance with mandatory boundary offsets. There was serendipity in the outcomes that could not be ignored.
We wanted to create a very cool house and ESD initiatives were critical design generators in conjunction with other conceptual concerns. The whole house works as an aperture for venturi effect, accounting for acceleration of air movement through a constricted opening demonstrated in both plan and section”, comment the architects.
The entire building opens onto reflection ponds and pools allowing for evaporative cooling – and has been oriented and further engineered to utilise and control the prevailing winds & summer breezes. The combination of ESD initiatives and planning reduces the requirement for airconditioning, as air is pulled through the house by thermal chimneys with mechanically operated vents at high level forming feature clerestory voids to the articulated plywood ceilings. The house creates its own breezes on the stillest day.
The result is a striking building which has an undeniable public presence, visible from the main road into Port Douglas. The project acts as a counterpoint to the neighbouring “Queenslanders” and suggests an alternative.
In 2008 the project was awarded the FNQ residential architecture award from the Australian Institute of Architects and is published as one of the top 150 houses in the world.