Peter Stutchbury

West Head House


West Head House


Peter Stutchbury

Designed and Built


Design Architect

Peter Stutchbury

Landscape Architect

Phoebe Pape


Hudson Parade, Clareville


5 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 3 Car


Eva Tihanyi


© Michael Nicholson



West Head House, designed and built by Peter Stutchbury, is unique in that it is the location in which, over 26 years, Peter has designed and created architecture that challenges and defines a way of living in the Australian climate. The concepts and inspiration drawn from this building are interwoven with his belief system, which has been recognised internationally and has resulted in the highest architectural accolades; including two Robin Boyd award-winning properties, three commended Robin Boyd and this year’s Wilkinson Award, with Fergus Scott Architects.

The property speaks of Peter’s style at every turn; experimental, thoughtful and at one in its environment. This is a property that calls to the romantic sensibility. West Head House is where concepts have been dreamt, created and lived.

We invited Peter Stutchbury to share his sentiments on the property. This is the story of the design and creation of West Head House in his own words.

When living in this house one has a wonderful sense of the lightness of being... There is great joy in freedom and a deliberate pilgrimage toward the romantic.”

Peter Stutchbury


In His Own Words – Architect’s Statements

‘In 1980 No. 75 Hudson Parade was purchased as a vacant battleaxe block of land. The Stutchbury family had a history of holidays at Clareville from the early ‘60’s and after graduating from Newcastle University Peter elected to live in this wonderful pristine environment.

In those days koalas roamed the forest – often passing across our land. The Pittwater human population was 50% transientry. At summertime as the insect life increased in volume so too did human activity – often referred to as the playground of Sydney, the northern Peninsula maintained a quality of romance and natural environment unique within any cities boundaries.

The choice to purchase No. 75 was easy; it was walking distance to Clareville beach, it was adjacent to a spotted gum forest, it has beautiful prospect overlooking Pittwater toward Longnose Point over to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. The land has northern prospect yet is largely protected from the south – there is a wonderful silence to this land.

The land faces west so is by nature a dry site – we have attempted to reflect this in the landscape – the height of the building allows north – east cooling breezes to be caught at the living zone… The wide eaves offer sensible protection from both summer sun and torrential rains. The small façade to the west minimises sun and wind load.

The house was designed on return from an extended stay living in and studying the highland villages of Papua New Guinea. In some ways the village manner of living has been integrated into the thinking – the separation of structures and their inherent ‘light’ nature along with strategic changes in level dependent upon site nature.

When living in this house one has a wonderful sense of the lightness of being… There is great joy in freedom and a deliberate pilgrimage toward the romantic.

A composite timber/steel construction the house represents a major step toward future structural systems where materials are chosen for their functional characteristics. In this instance the strength and rigidity/lightness of steel alongside the beauty – flexibility and on site management of timber.


The conceptual bathhouse and central kitchen were both extensions of a lifestyle consideration and the subsequent additions of triangular room, external shower room and infill bedroom all were experimental by nature ultimately informing future architectural works.

By building lightweight the house suits the nature of the site – sitting in a spotted gum forest with only slight connection with land but significant connection with sky the overall effect is one of a tree house along with all the wonderful connotations that brings.

Whilst not a departure from the conveniences of living West Head House opens the door to the benefits of living; we become aware of our environment, knowledgeable of change and caressed by simple beauty such a sunsets and the annual visitation of the king parrots. Conscious of the changing seasonal smells and aware of the patterns that ultimately assemble to bring comfort through knowledge. We become familiar with the bird calls and can discern the wind patterns by viewing the broach expanse of Pittwater. The House is simply a conduit for healthy living, for anyone who seeks serenity this house promotes that quality.

It has been home to a family for over 23 years – the three children: Bronte 21, Noah 19 and Cleapatra 12 all born and nurtured in and around the West Head House environment. The many ways the house represents the beginnings of a fundamental shift in philosophy where the garden or place began to play a more intimate role in the nature of the building.

In the more recent and local house design in a similar scale the garden is seen as the dominant partner – not a element beyond the building but more so ‘of’ the building.

For anyone considering the value of West Head House it is not in timber and steel – it is in every board being fitted – timbers being hand selected, hand finished; fires and food being integral to the knowledge of the building as is design itself – the house is not perfect it is beautiful and will give any-one or family experiences and pleasures beyond what has become accepted as life.’




Hudson Parade, Clareville


5 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 3 Car

Internal area (approx.)

213 sq m (2,293 sq ft)

External area (approx.)

111 sq m (7,922 sq ft)



PDF floorplan →


Viewings by appointment

Modern House Estate Agents
International: +61 2 8014 5363
National: 1300 814 768


Clareville is 36 km from the CBD and offers a lifestyle choice that is arguably the very best of Sydney.

The immediate situation of the property at 75 Hudson Parade is one of only a handful of houses that sit high on Hudson Parade. Orientated and designed to maximise the Northern aspect and minimise the exposure to the West.

West Head House enjoys a sheltered position, away from the strong winds that beset many of the beachfront properties. As well as having the feel of a treehouse it also could just as easily be called a beach house. Nearby steps on Hudson Parade lead directly down to Clareville beach. The beach runs from Taylors Point in the south and north along the Pittwater foreshore.

Famed for its casual dining, Clareville Kiosk is literally just around the corner. For the choice of a Pittwater or ocean view, the cafés and restaurants of Avalon, Palm Beach and Whale Beach are a short drive away.

Pittwater is a sheltered waterway around 5.5km long, which offers safe harbourage and recreational boating. It’s also a popular fishing spot with recreational anglers. It was named by Captain Arthur Phillip on 2 March 1788 when he declared it “the finest piece of Water I ever saw”. He “honoured [it] with the name of Pitt Water”, after William Pitt, the Younger, who was Prime Minister of England.


Nearby Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the second oldest National Park in New South Wales, conserves some 15,000 hectares of sandstone bushland. Rich in Aboriginal sites, European history and native flora and fauna it is a valuable location for family leisure activities.

The area has a number of well-regarded child care centres and preschools including Avalon Playtime Kindergarten, St Marks Preschool, Barrenjoey Montessori School, She Oaks Kindergarten, Casa Carlos Kindergarten, Bear ‘n Joey Long Day Care and Palm Beach Memorial Kindergarten.

Local government schools in the area include Avalon Public School, Barrenjoey High School and Bilgola Plateau Public School.

Private schools include Maria Regina Primary School, Hamazkaine Arshak & Sophie Galstaun School, Mater Maria College, Loquat Valley Anglican Preparatory School, Sacred Heart Primary School, St Josephs Primary School, Pittwater House Grammar School, Pittwater Girls College, Pittwater House Preparatory School and Pittwater Junior Girls College.

Nearby tertiary institutions and community colleges include Northern Sydney Institute of TAFE (Brookvale and Seaforth), International College of Tourism (Manly) and Manly Warringah Community College.

The Land in Mind

Home: no roads here – only boats – this waterbourne community. About 1974. Sitting alone quietly on this dilapidated deck. Looking out over the estuary, fine ruffles of wind on water, skeined fingers of reflection. The sand spit – this time tide clock a perfect taper of forces. Mind wandering.

Peace broke by sudden arrival of a ginger border collie, tongue hanging out. It’s summer. Followed by this young bloke, also unannounced, leaning forward slightly, medium height, lightly but strongly built, fair hair in ponytail, bare foot, blue stubbies and Jacky Howe singlet. Maybe Scandinavian. ‘Sorry to interrupt.’ Who is this young fella – didn’t I see him recently – ah yes, that wedding up in Newcastle, me soaking wet after motorcycle ride through severe storm.

Came straight up to me, he did – no intro – ‘hey, I’ve seen that house in the walled palm garden that you’re doing and how’re you going to sort out that giant dish gutter over the gallery why don’t you do this…’ All in one sentence, no stopping for my answer. As I remember his idea wasn’t so hot but here he was again – no lack of confidence, straight up front.

This series of mental notes when I first met Stutch, nearly forty years ago. The beginning of a long and sustaining friendship – working, teaching and raising families together. Peter Stutchbury is a northern beaches boy – East Coast Australia. Meaning, surf culture, living outdoors on the ocean margins, a rugged terrain meeting the Tasman Sea in a necklace of beaches between headlands stretching from Manly in the south to the hammer head of Barrenjoey to the north. A climate tempered by the south flowing warm East Coast current. This gives Sydney its subtropical nature. Ideal for stripped back living. The life of these surfers, wandering up and down the coast in an old station wagon or ute, boards on the top or in the back – camping wherever. No, not wherever – but carefully selecting a place for base camp and of course as an architect this is where it all begins. The minimal lifestyle in the best place that nature offers. And you must be discerning and selective.


Concurrent with this was his time sent (and still spent) 450 miles inland across the Great Divide in the red earth desert fringe country – Cobar. This sheep farming family is on his gentle mother’s side. They have great knowledge of the land, its sparse resources and its fierce dynamics. Here he discovered remnants of Aboriginal inhabitation thousands of years old in the rock overhangs of the ‘drawers’ which emerge from the expansive plain like the arching backbones of giant animals. These caves admit welcome winter sun and have prospect over the open ground for game. The indigenous idea of ‘house’ extends over an entire landscape, simple moving about from best place to best place as things change through the season. I’ve seen Stutch’s beautiful drawings of this terrain. They are studies which breed an understanding of site, its force of circumstance, circum-stance: that which stands around a place.

The first step in architecture springs from the land, as do the origins of most of our cities. Copenhagen ‘trading harbour’ – the old beach, protected, where they pulled their boats up to exchange goods. Paris from the defendable ‘Îsle de la Cité’ in the Seine. Sydney from its secure harbour with its productive margins and midden platforms and so on. The force of the land is always underlying. We can see this in the pages that follow. Man works, each in the same way singular and beautiful and testing the edges. They all have the land in mind.

His studio is a young creative team who are thrown in at the deep end. They are given responsibility from the outset and in the background two brilliant, resourceful, experienced men. Neilsen Warren, a sharp, ethical intelligence with decades of practice behind him. He manages to keep the ship on course. And Professor Max Irvine, structural engineer par excellence and father confessor to many of us. They give the younger ones confidence and give Peter the room to move to move the room. Now in his fifth decade he’s been through over thirty years of practice, the joys and the fires of family (which slaps Pursewarden’s poultice on the ego) and he’s coming into his most creative years. We all look forward to that.

Written by Richard Leplastrier, Architect

Photograph: Aboriginal Elder, Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison, welcomes Peter Stutchbury to the land of his people in a traditional smoke ceremony. © Jure Zavrtanik

Viewings by appointment

Modern House Estate Agents
International: +61 2 8014 5363
National: 1300 814 768