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Curves ahead

MGK Photography

Curves ahead

MGK Photography
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Inspired by the modernist glamour of Palm Springs, this curvaceous concrete-and-timber Brisbane home is as cool and fresh as a summer breeze.

Gabrielle Chariton

Content Writer

Anyone who’s built with concrete knows how challenging it can be – from site prep to constructing and reinforcing the formwork to prevent leaks, sagging, bulging or moving. Once poured, care must be taken to avoid cracking or shrinkage during the drying and curing phase. There’s an art to it.

But as a building material, concrete is currently having its moment in the architectural sun, thanks to its austere beauty, the almost limitless creative potential it brings to any project, and its inherent strength, thermal properties and durability.

For home builder, engineer and HIA member Aurelien Berson, concrete is his chosen medium, and his mastery of this magnificent material is evident in one of his latest projects, a Palm Springs- inspired home in Brisbane’s Camp Hill. With its sweeping curves and soft, tonal palette, the house has an almost ethereal lightness, despite the solidity of its construction.

A Palm Springs-inspired home in Brisbane was built by Aurelien Berson Construction.
As a building material, concrete is currently having its moment in the architectural sun.

Aurelien migrated from France to Australia in 2006 and, as a high-level civil engineer, has worked on numerous major infrastructure projects up and down the eastern coast. In 2009, he decided he’d like to build a home, but was shocked at the ‘ridiculous’ prices he was quoted. So, he went about obtaining his building licence and built it himself.

He found the process so satisfying, he continued to build ‘a couple a year’. More than a decade later, his home building ‘hobby’ has morphed into his primary career, and he now heads up his own company, Aurelien Berson Construction.

Aurelien started using concrete for his residential construction projects mainly because it’s a material he feels comfortable with, and it aligns with his professional expertise. In the early days, specialising in concrete was also a means of differentiating himself within the market. ‘I was probably one of the first builders in Brisbane to do quite complicated concrete houses. Now there are more people doing it. My civil engineering experience enables me to better understand constructability issues, ensuring a design that’s straightforward to build, without adding cost or time through temporary works or complex detailing.’

As a spec home, the Camp Hill house was designed to broadly appeal to families.
Aurelien (pictured with his daughter) migrated from France to Australia in 2006.

Today, he operates at the high-end niche of the market, and has developed a signature style: ‘I’m very concrete, green and timber. So, I change the colours and design, but always stay within the same. I love these raw materials.’

The Camp Hill house – a knockdown-rebuild project – encapsulates this trademark aesthetic while also conforming to the local council’s heritage code, which stipulates that new houses are designed to fit in with the character of the existing streetscape. The two-storey design is therefore lightly reminiscent of a traditional Queenslander, with a dash of mid-century glamour thrown in.

Crisp weatherboard cladding offsets the sleek, white-rendered concrete curves. Delicate timber- look DecoWood battens, which extend around the upper storey and conceal the garage doors, unify the facade. Greenery springs from hidden planters and a rooftop garden above the alfresco area.

The sculptural forms throughout the house demonstrate Aurelien’s affinity for concrete.
The project took eight months to build and was completed and on the market in June 2023.

As a spec home, the Camp Hill house was designed to broadly appeal to families. ‘I tried to tick all the main boxes to capture the mass of people,’ Aurelien says. ‘That means five bedrooms, three bathrooms and at least one bedroom downstairs,’ as well as all the must-have inclusions such as a walk-in pantry, mud room, home office and parents’ retreat.

The internal layout is simple and ergonomic but at the same time, breathtakingly beautiful. That’s due to a seven-metre-high void over the dining area, and a curved mezzanine ‘balcony’, overlooking it. ‘I used the curves for the balcony to soften it, making it feel more friendly.’

Extending seamlessly from the open-plan living spaces is an outdoor entertaining area, the visual weight of its concrete roof punctuated with a dramatic oculus, ringed with LED lighting. This slab was engineered with waterproofing membranes and drainage systems to take a rooftop garden which creates a perfect green view from the central upstairs hallway.

The curve motif is a signature throughout the home, both architecturally and decoratively. The elegantly sculpted arcs of the ceilings and walls are echoed in rounded cabinetry; an undulating shelf in the kitchen; arched wall niches in the master bedroom. Even the fireplace, imported from France especially for this project, is circular.

Extending seamlessly from the open-plan living spaces is an outdoor entertaining area.
The internal layout is simple and ergonomic but at the same time, breathtakingly beautiful.

‘I just did it because everything was curved on the inside, so I said, “Why am I going to put in a square fireplace?” So, I just pushed it further to get a round fireplace.’

The pristine, sculptural forms on show throughout the Camp Hill house demonstrate Aurelien’s affinity for concrete; he’s able to coax an unusual levity from what is often an overbearingly heavy material. Amazingly, the project took only eight months to build and was completed and on the market in June 2023. By September, after an overwhelmingly positive response from potential buyers, it was sold.

Aurelien was pleased with the finished result and says he’s particularly proud of how the facade – his own design – came together; and the ‘very cool’ kitchen. Looking to the future, Aurelien’s plan is to simply ‘keep building’.

He’s excited about several high-end projects – including one with renowned architect Luigi Roselli – that he has in the pipeline for 2024, all featuring inventive ways with concrete. ‘I love working on that intriguing, more interesting architecture, doing things that have never been done before,’ he says.

The Camp Hill House at a glance

Builder

Aurelien Berson Construction

Interior design

Ashley Maddison, AM Interior Studio

Location

Brisbane, Queensland

Materials:

  • Exterior: Rendered concrete; weatherboard cladding
  • Stone cladding: Stone Style
  • Batten: DecoWood batten in Curly Birch
  • Flooring: French oak Tongue and Groove
  • Rendering: Bespoke Finishes
  • Lighting: Sipelec Electrical Solutions
  • Tapware: Elysian commercial pull-out kitchen mixer in Brushed Brass; Vari single sink in Brushed Brass
  • Fireplace: Focus Creation
  • Kitchen: Benchtop in Dolce Vita Quartzite, WA; polytec cabinetry
  • Feature walls: Marmorino Venetian plaster

First published on 15 March 2024

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