Johanna House / Nicholas Burns

Architect: Nicholas Burns
Location: Johanna beach, Victoria,
Contractor: BDH constructions
Landscape: Indigenous Species
Materials: Rammed earth, Concrete, Steel, Glass
Design year: 2005-2006
Project year: 2007-2008


Secluded 100 acres of pristine bush containing environmentally significant and endangered ecological classes adjoining the National Park.


A discrete addition to the landscape, a journey of gradual and layered concealment, opening landscape and ocean. Contrast; contraction/expansion, heavy/light, opaque/transparent….inside-outside-inside. Pure geometry, limited material palette and detailing create a stillness, a dematerialising interconnection with nature, landscape and time creating place and present focus.


Latitude of 38˚46˝, 400m from the Bass Strait (Temperature range 12-18˚C). The proximity to the ocean ameliorates the diurnal temperatures and evens out the highest and lowest to a range by approximately 10˚C to 13-34˚C. Wind speed is common in winter to 60 knots. Precipitation is high for Victoria due to the proximity of the cool temperate rainforest of the Otway Ranges.


No outside material imported onto site to prevent invasion of non-indigenous species on the property and adjoining national park. The house is sited on an existing clearing, no trees were cleared for construction.


Mains power connection (4.5 km underground). The aim of a remote area power system was not suitable, a reliance on fuel delivery for Diesel generation in winter posed an unreasonable risk of fungal infection. Passively cooled and heated (with supplementary slab heating in the living space).

Water & waste

Rainwater for all drinking, ablution and fire fighting requirements is collected and stored in tanks. Waste water is treated on site through aerobic biological and sand filtration requiring zero chemical or power input.

Cite: "Johanna House / Nicholas Burns" 27 Jun 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • Travis

    what’s with the robotic language in the post?
    maybe the most “sustainable” design aspect would be to keep the owners out (and it makes for such nice photos…)

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    This is an exceptional project that benefits enormously from the clear concept, reduced materials palette, and logically thought through systems. The volumes are beautiful and the transparency is totally appropriate.

    It does seem as if the kitchen landed from another project and I have never been much of a fan of steel fireplace flues. It does seem that the volume of the fireplace could have been solid.

    Lastly, a project of this caliber really deserves top professional photography.

    As for the language, I appreciate the matter of fact tone.

  • AMR

    Agree Terry, though the kitchen bothers me more than the flue.
    In fact most kitchens I see bother me for their blandness.
    This kitchen should have been in stone or plywood not 2 pack epoxy paint. Hardly very green.

  • LargoJax

    Well said Terry!

  • farflung

    lovely project, and i too appreciate the lack of florid talkitecture in the description.
    passively cooled? perhaps.
    passively heated? not with all that glass.

  • Lax Mok

    Reading: "Johanna House / Nicholas Burns | ArchDaily" (

  • Lax Mok

    Reading: "Johanna House / Nicholas Burns | ArchDaily" (

  • Lucas Gray

    Nice post Terry.

    I love the material palette. Rammed earth is suck a fantastic material that should really be used more as a substitute for concrete walls.

    I echo the comments above about transparency and the elegance of the volumes. This house has a great connection to the surrounding landscape.

  • Mike Garten

    Beautiful beach architecture at

  • Mike Garten

    Beautiful beach architecture at

  • Robert Morrison

    for those who like Johanna House / Nicholas Burns read much more here on @pushpullbar

  • taylorjsimpson

    Check out: "Johanna House / Nicholas Burns | ArchDaily" (

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  • Olivier M.

    Johanna House / Nicholas Burns
    This looks nice!

  • Pingback: Johanna House Designed By Nicholas Burns | Upscale Swagger

  • miloIIIIVII

    want this VIEW #design #nature

  • sullka

    I love this house, excellent rammed earth case study.

    It’s thread on PushPullBar has more info on it.

  • Lasse

    What an amazing landscape…

    The house is okay but the sorroundings just deserve much better attention to details, window frames and so on has such lame proportions..
    I don’t know if I would use the courtyard, I get that it’s windy but sitting outside and having to look through the living room to see the view seems a bit depressing.

    Diggind down 4,5 kms of powerlines seems aggressive compared to a little wind turbine or solarpower.. Or is that just me?

  • Jimmy

    First i confused it as a painting, excellent ecofriendly architecture works.

  • Naim Ahmed Kibria

    A very neat and clean work- speaks the simplicity of the plan and elevations.The placement of the building on the contoured landscape is very interesting and i like the photograph taken from a distant beach…….over all FANTASTIC.

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  • Nick Downes

    Johanna House / Nicholas Burns <—- a nice little retreat here (via @archdaily)

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  • Ben L

    I’m liking the direction that this project is going.

    I love the steel fireplace in the center of the house, it will be fantastic to have something like that glowing and emitting heat in all directions in the winter. One issue with a steel fireplace is that once the fire dies out, all the heat radiation is lost and the house will cool down very quickly, having the fireplace set into a thermal mass wall would stabilize the winter temperature much better. But that floating fireplace in the middle of the house does look amazing.

    Another issue I would like to bring up is the gradual decay and erosion that the rammed earth parapet walls will suffer from. Here in Tucson, Arizona there is a lot of rammed earth walls that are decaying due to rain. I think it looks wonderful to have the tops of the walls slowly lose their sharp edges, and gradually melt over the decades. I just hope that this is expected and wanted. A very easy and unsightly solution would be to make a flat metal cap along the tops of the parapets to prevent the rain from soaking in and weakening the walls.

    Well done guys, looks amazing.

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