Design & Style


Eastop’s second nature.

24 November 2021

Award-winning architect Liam Eastop designs residences that instinctively celebrate the landscape and its history through interconnected spaces.

Design & Style


Eastop’s second nature.

24 November 2021

Award-winning architect Liam Eastop designs residences that instinctively celebrate the landscape and its history through interconnected spaces.

Mercedes-AMG G 63 in the Chernier home by Liam Eastop Architects

Architect Liam Eastop designs homes that prioritise a connection with the surrounding landscape. Image: Liam Eastop Architects.

You don’t have to dig too deeply into Liam Eastop’s backstory to see where his passion for nature and coastal landscapes originates.

Liam grew up in Portsea, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, and when the family wasn’t hiking between coastal spots or camping on remote islands in Queensland, Liam was bodyboarding the local surf spots.

“When I go to the beach, it feels like an emotional release,” Liam says. “That's probably why I spent so much time in the water as a teenager, because it allowed me to reset and feel grounded.”

The award-winning director of Eastop Architects is an instinctive adherent to biophilic design, a movement that emphasises the union between the built and natural environment through lighting, ventilation, natural materials and green space.

Eastbourne by Liam Eastop Architects

Liam Eastop’s Australian Interior Design Award-winning project Eastbourne was designed to wrap around its internal courtyard. Image: Liam Eastop Architects.

It’s not a term Liam uses formally, but, nevertheless, the principles of biophilic design are ingrained in both his urban, suburban and coastal projects. “We're often striving to create a relationship between landscape, architecture and interiors, with all of those aspects folded together,” he says.

Rather than designing a house and garden separately, Liam views his projects through the lens of interconnected landscapes.

“I approach a house as a series of spaces, like a gallery or a public space, where you move through a sequence of environments,” he says. “Spatial environments are probably the biggest thing that drives a project, so it’s about trying to create negative conditions or voids, or spaces of quiet and reflection.”

Mingling inner and outer

Nowhere is this approach more apparent than in Liam’s Eastbourne residential project on a small site in inner-city Melbourne, which won the Emerging Interior Design Practice gong at the 2021 Australian Interior Design Awards. It includes a large 4x4m skylight void as the centrepiece, and a carport with a pivot wall that opens outwards for a second functional space. 

Eastbourne by Liam Eastop Architects

Eastbourne, in inner-city Melbourne, features a carport with a pivot wall that opens outwards for a second functional space. Image: Liam Eastop Architects.

“The dining table is that centre point of the house and you've got the void that opens to the sky, to the kitchen and to the living space,” he says.

Rather than being tacked on at the rear as an afterthought, the internal courtyard is as much a room as an outdoor area. “The idea is that the house is wrapping up the courtyard and holding it there as a meditative space,” Liam says.

The front garden, which nudges the street edge, softens the exterior of the house. “Even in the carport, we have low-light planting that runs along the edges to soften all the corners,” he notes.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 in the Eastbourne home by Liam Eastop Architects

At Eastbourne, Liam used low-light planting along the edges of the carport to soften the corners. Image: Liam Eastop Architects.

A similar connection to landscape is evident in Eastop’s Chenier project, a ‘floating’ timber house on the Mornington Peninsula. A series of masonry walls frame the large garden, intersecting and stitching the house to the sloped site. There is a sheltered courtyard for added privacy and blade walls add layers to mark the juncture between spaces.

“I always tell clients that if you can create layering of space, it creates a series of thresholds between different areas, such as the neighbour, garden, boundary and fence,” he says.

Liam has also planted masses of indigenous grasses to regenerate the landscape, which surround the house. “We didn’t want the standard (façade) dynamic of driveway, garden and house, so we created a crushed-rock arid landscape and nested planting throughout,” he says.

Chenier home by Liam Eastop Architects

At Eastbourne, Liam used low-light planting along the edges of the carport to soften the corners. Image: Liam Eastop Architects.

Craving green space

Liam believes that Australia has some way to go in embracing the full potential of biophilic design, but he has noticed an increasing interest in the pleasures of a greener home environment — especially as more of us work from home.

“There’s a sense that people need outdoor space and there's a craving for a green space and of softening with planting,” he says.

Liam says landscaping in residential developments is beginning to evolve beyond the bare-minimum novelty garden bed of yore to more sophisticated engagements with space. “In some apartments, there are green roof schemes, and more landscape design work is popping up in projects where it never used to,” he says.

Weaving the natural together with the built environments is imperative to sustainable design, Liam says, whether using drought-tolerant plants to soften external edges, or a deciduous tree to block the sun during summer and then let light in through its stripped winter branches.

Chenier home by Liam Eastop Architects

Liam says weaving the natural landscape into the fabric of a home is imperative for sustainable architecture and design. Image: Liam Eastop Architects.

These principles, Liam notes, should be second nature in any good design. “I don't necessarily use these considerations as the conscious driving focus for projects,” he says. “I just think they’re intrinsic, they need to be there, and if they're not then that's a problem.”

Crucial to the future success of biophilic design in modern architecture, he explains, is considering the site’s setting, history and landscape from the get-go. “When a client comes to us, I generally ask not to see any reference images as I'd rather just start the project from their site and from core ideas,” he says.

“All of our projects are trying to be permanent; they're trying to be there for a long period of time and to engage as much as they can with the landscape.”

By Johanna Leggatt