Water Canvas, Sea-Cliff House

Location: Bronte, Sydney, Australia

Project Team: Terragram Pty Ltd
Architect: Chris Elliott Architects
Landscape Contractor: Bates Landscape Services
Stonework: Kell & Denson Stoneworks Pty Ltd

Year: 2011

Duckweed is usually considered to be the curse of fishponds covering the entire surface of water. This very shallow aquatic roof garden reverses the act of its removal. The courtyard relies on the presence of duckweed and floating ferns, leaving only small sky windows – frames that are not in fixed positions, but rather could be frequently rearranged. These frames keep plants from invading the small geometric space. Exposure to sun transforms the colour of plants from bright green to reddish brown, with shifting winds continually transforming and remixing this water canvas of plants. Small patches of different species and colours give the surface an almost painterly appearance. Despite very shallow water, small native fish find a safe haven under the floating carpet of aquatic plants.  Large slabs of granite are marked with small man-made depressions that retain water long after rain has ceased. The client (the architect of the house himself) and landscape architect, harvested aquatic plants from sites, where they were considered an unwanted nuisance.