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Award Winning Klein Bottle House: A Descriptive Model of a Surface Developed by Topological Mathematicians

Recently, The Klein Bottle House by Mcbride Charles Ryan has won the category award for world's best house, at the 2009 World Architecture Festival Awards. It has also received the AIA National Robin Boyd Award for new Residential Architecture, the AIA Victorian Chapter Harold Desbrowe-Annear Award for Residential Architecture, Architectural and Design Excellence in the South East Awards for Outstanding Residential Dwelling and won the Dulux Colour Awards for Residential Exterior.


Architect: McBride Charles Ryan - Rob McBride & Debbie-Lyn Ryan
Location: Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Project Team: Drew Williamson, Fang Cheah
Clients / Builders: Donna & Mark
Floor Area: 258 sqm

The Klein bottle is a descriptive model of a surface developed by topological mathematicians. Klein bottle, mobius strips, boy surfaces, unique surfaces that while they may be distorted remain topologically the same. I.e. a donut will remain topologically a donut if you twist and distort it, it will only change topologically if it is cut.

Klein Bottle House

The surfaces that mathematicians have developed hold intrigue for architects as they hold a promise of new spatial relationships and configurations. Technology (CAD) has played an important part in all this, it is now more possible to efficiently describe more complex shapes and spaces and communicate these to the build. Previously the more orthogonal means of communication – plans, sections and elevations naturally encourage buildings which are more easily described in these terms, i.e. boxes.

Colour Usage

Central to the expression of the origami ”Klein Bottle” is the use of colour facets (subtle as they are) – in Antique white and Pearl Ash. These subtle variants emphasize the facets and hence origami like quality of the house.

The black perimeter to the house- (other than where the panoramic windows encapsulate the internal and external vista), is deliberate and important. The black walls highlight and accentuate the beautiful wild natural surroundings. The black internally has the effect of framing a view of nature, giving one the feeling that from inside the house has landed within a natural wonderland. We did not want any distraction from this, and the black paint aids the power of the ti tree surroundings. It is the ideal weekend getaway for the inhabitants who can immerse themselves in nature in stark contrast to their busy city lives.

McBride Charles Ryan

This holiday house is situated on the Mornington Peninsula 1.5 hrs drive from Melbourne. It is located within the tee-tree on the sand dunes, a short distance from the wild 16 beach. From theoutset MCR wanted a building that nestled within the tree line. That talked about journey and the playfulness of holiday time. What began as a spiral or shell like building developed into a more complex spiral, the Klein bottle. MCR were keen to be topologically true to the Klein bottle but it had to function as a home. We thought an origami version of the bottle would be achievable and hold some ironic fascination. (The resulting FC version also has a comforting relationship to the tradition of the Aussie cement sheet beach house).




The building (we think) is also within that tradition of the use of an experimental geometry that could be adapted to more suitably meet contemporary needs, and desires. In that sense it is within the heroic tradition of invigorating the very nature of the home, most notable of this tradition would be the great experimental heroic houses by Melbourne architects in the 50’s (McIntyre and Boyd in particular).

The house revolves around a central courtyard, a grand regal stair connecting all the levels. There is a sense of both being near and far to all occupants.

Its endless, curling shell-like quality particularly in the tee tree brings about a comforting togetherness.



Klein Bottle House MCR

Photographs are taken by John Gollings.

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