Design TeamRowan Opat, Nathan Marshall
From the architect. In this new home the client brief was for a low maintenance home to accommodate an expanding family with regular guests. Located on a semi-rural context, one hour from the CBD the house is designed to operate independently of public water, gas, sewerage and electricity. The design incorporates a range of outdoor spaces as an extension of the living spaces. Spaces are orientated due north and the shape of the house is designed to allow the sun to heat spaces during winter and to naturally ventilate during summer.
In this new house the client’s brief was for a low maintenance home to accommodate an expanding family with regular guests. They wanted a playful home that would allow them to customise and grow into it over time. Located in a semi-rural context, one hour from Melbourne, the house is designed to function independently of mains water, gas, sewerage and electricity.
We decided on a backbone concept of a tent-made-solid. We found this a conceptually, structurally, environmentally and economically appropriate response to the brief. Throughout the process good building practice created a tension with my desire to express this idea more literally. A sustainability consultant guided the selection of all materials. External walls and roof are insulated lightweight structure and finish. The fireplace and concrete floors provide the thermal mass. Ecoply is used for the courtyard surface and radially sawn Silver Top Ash for external board and batten cladding.
The house was positioned amongst existing trees to minimise felling. The depth (north south) of the plan, height of ceilings, circulation of air, catchment of heat and controlling seasonal direct natural light were refined to optimise the passive solar effectiveness. The brief crystallized into a loose arrangement of discreet living and utility buildings. The need to avoid internal overshadowing resolved itself by arranging the buildings in a square. The spaces in-between then grew into outdoor living areas. Introducing a courtyard house to a one hectare site offered seclusion and hierarchy into an otherwise open field.
The result is a house comprised of outdoor spaces that are an extension of living areas, the interplay of which form verandah, portico, catwalk and breezeway. All combine to offer a spectrum of indoor and outdoor experiences. The roofscape directly responds to the interior functions, monumental over the living spaces and low slung over dormitories. The roof edge is expressed as an upper layer, a cloak over the external walls that continues on to meet the ground at the rear.
Darker external colours integrate the house into the shadows of the surrounding bushland. In contrast the courtyard employs a lighter colour thus accentuating the courtyard as a type of interior. The architectural process revealed a design force in the study of the sun. Sciagraphy became an essential part of this scheme and continues to be an interest in my work as does the significance of the sun historically.