Titled ‘A House That Floods’, the design for The Lodge on the Lake by Other Architects imagined re-inserting the narrative of the flooding and emptying Lake George into the benign, artificial landscape of Canberra. The movement of water acts as a spatial device that dictates and clarifies the otherwise overlapping and confused functions of the Prime Minister’s Lodge. Drained or submerged at certain times, the spaces of the house are optimized for ceremonial events and domestic life, public access and secret meetings. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The competition for the Australian Prime Minister’s official residence was held on the anniversary of Walter Burley Griffins’ winning design for Canberra, Australia’s capital city. Our historical research revealed that the plan for Canberra, an axial and symmetrical city arranged around a man made lake, was inspired by an earlier and little known proposal by Charles Coulter. Coulter sited his capital city on the shores of Lake George, a natural lake that – fed by subterranean aquifers – mysteriously floods and empties at unpredictable intervals.
This is a house that floods and empties, its spaces and rooms shrouded or revealed by the water’s ebb and flow. Carved out of the lake’s depth, the house’s landscape is periodically inundated and reclaimed. Symmetries and reflections emerge and dissipate as the shore line advances and recedes. As in Archimedes’ principle, the pooling water is always equal to the volume displaced elsewhere.
Australia’s future capital city was first glimpsed in Charles Coulter’s 1901 watercolour drawing. Like a mirage, Coulter’s Venetian city materialized on the shores of Lake George. The choice of location was curious: fed by a hidden source, the mysterious lake drains and fills at unpredictable intervals. A few years later, surveyor Charles Robert Scrivener sited the capitol within the Molonglo River floodplain. Inspired by Coulter, Scrivener audaciously proposed that the Molonglo be dammed to create its own artificial lake, providing both an ornamental setting and a secure reservoir for the inland city.
Inheriting Scriviner’s concept, the Griffins extracted Canberra’s plan from the negative space of the lake. The line of the shore was drown in precise equilibrium with the constellation of surrounding peaks. Inscribed at the intersection of the physical and virtual, the natural and man made, the Griffins’ ideal city plan promised a place for each and every element of the new capitol.
This competition calls for the relocation of the Prime Minister’s Lodge to a site at Lake Burley Griffin, where it joins the other monumental structures connected across water by symmetrical axes and radiating geometries. A place of gathering and solitude, arrival and departure, formality and domesticity, the Lodge is both private residence and public institution. Our proposal is to use the fluctuations of the lake itself to express and regulate these dualities.
Occupying the crest of the hill, the Upper House hosts the official activities of the Lodge. At the base of the hill, the Lower House accommodates the private residence and guest suites. The Upper House is a symbolic dwelling, its meeting spaces and function rooms are oriented to views of Canberra’s landmarks. Prefabricated and modular, the linear Lower House can be extended or retracted as its inhabitants see fit. The defensible zone is hidden deep within the hill.
Poised beneath the lake’s surface is a grand ceremonial space. Used only for special events, this space is revealed by draining the water within and flooding the land. Conveyed by capillary action, the displaced water submerges access to a public boardwalk along the foreshore and conceals the private spaces of the Lower House. Lake water can also be sucked up to the Upper House and vaporized into a cloud, shielding Attunga Point from the threat of satellite surveillance, drone strike or paparazzi.