Leaf House / Undercurrent Architects

© Hugh Rutherford
© Hugh Rutherford

Architects: Undercurrent Architects
Location: Sydney,
Project Team: German Perez-Tavio, Didier Ryan
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Hugh Rutherford

© Hugh Rutherford © Hugh Rutherford © Hugh Rutherford © Hugh Rutherford

Leaf House is building that allows users to be inside and in-the-garden at the same time. It is a self contained cottage forming part of a coastal residence in Sydney; a Pavilion for experiencing Nature.

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The building integrates the environment and reflects qualities of the landscape: its canopy structure blends into the foliage; its podium base shapes the terrain.

structure sketch
structure sketch

The design is characterized by curved copper roof shells resembling fallen leaves and a vine-like structural system channelling dynamic growth inside.

© Hugh Rutherford
© Hugh Rutherford

Daylight filters through porous roof shells onto a podium deck and the open plan living areas. Views and reflections subtly modulate the surrounding garden through an enclosure of moulded glass. Private spaces offer introspection inside the sandstone podium buried in the terrain.

The project entailed design and building roles as methods were improvised to achieve high technical complexity within cost constraints.

Cite: "Leaf House / Undercurrent Architects" 22 Dec 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=44198>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    now, the interior space is simply awsome. such a cool structure, i am impressed, the normal approach would have been to stick some straight poles in the ground in various angles and say its a forest. but this is so …. organic in many ways. i am not to fond of the exterior cladding though, looks like broken up coconut shells. a bit to heavy and not very leaf like. however one of the coolest projects i have seen in a long long time.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    wow.. if all these schemes of the organic structure is made in sketchup (is it?) I’m very impressed! cool project, love it.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    wow, if all these schemes of the organic structure are made in sketchup (are they?) I’m really impressed! nice project, I love it!

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    man… it’s art-noveau-ish
    with curve and dynamic lines constrained inside the whole thing, well it’s cool!!

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    It would be very interesting to know how the structure was actually produced and calculated. Does anybody know?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      “It would be very interesting to know how the structure was actually produced and calculated. Does anybody know?”

      I agree totally… Even the windows are all curved and in random shapes… how to calculate that?
      what software are they using?

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Theres a link on the architects website with an article from C3 Magazine showing the detailed drawings. The glass looks to be a single mould, flipped/ rotated /inverted to get apparent variations from repetitve shape. if so, nice idea. see the ‘about’ section at the http://www.undercurrent-architects.com and click on c3 magazine

  7. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    The good thing about most conceptual architecture is that it never gets built. The rare exceptions tend to be spectacular successes or failures. What interests me about this project is that it neither totally succeeds nor totally fails. It amazes me that anyone go through all of this to achieve something so uneventful.

    My guess is that more experience would have tipped the cart in a positive direction. Someone who wasn’t conflating digital with organic might have actually been able to tie the structure convincingly to the site. More control over the materials palette might have given a less jarring result. (In particular I find the very regular pattern of the stone and the topsy turvy support structure to be strangely juxtaposed.)

    What does really work is the parti and the flying roof structure. Even the supporting elements, though needlessly baroque, make some sense.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

    • Thumb up Thumb down +3

      Terry “I wish I could do something even remotely as interesting, creative and out of the box as this, but know I have no real talent so instead I will just criticise any work that is above the capabilities of my original ideas with some seemingly intellectual dribble about nothing” Phipps.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    this is an awesome project. The time lapse video really sends the message of the amount of ‘effort’ it took to create these spaces. Really good project, I have never heard of this firm, I wonder what else they have out there.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    May we all find just one client with as much trust, guts and money.
    Well designed, well executed and well presented.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Hi, some answers to questions above
    - The roof is fully enclosed, all gaps are glazed in. Roof shells shed water to the perimeter. No waterproof issues, even in horizontal rain.
    - Reiterative feedback and forth between physical and computer modeling(autocad and rhino). Lots of sketch models.
    - The steel work was made in boat building factory, more cost effect than site work or using a normal building company. Industrial boat building uses broader tolerances, so the structure was rapid to make, albeit with a rougher, hand made quality rather than sharp precision normally associated with building steel. Many techniques were to limit costs. For instance all stone was quarried from the excavation; roll copper (raw material price) was corrugated using an old water tank rolling machine; glass was formed from 1 mould; roof panels from 2 segements(with variable edge details); site work limited to rapid assembly of big parts; the contractal side was strickly controlled so that most tasks could be managed by a small site team (see the credits on the video for the few people involved)
    - Glass was made from a single left and right hand mould, with sections from the mould giving the appearance of non repetition.
    - The structure was made in a low tech manner, with x,y,z coordinates set out on the ground, and key control points located. This process was repeated on site installation.


  11. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Len: I assume you were on the project team, just a few words.

    Simply incredible. Such a beautiful expression. It isn’t very often you come across a building that can so adequately and completely capture the ‘organic’ nature of the environment around it while keeping itself separate from said nature. I would be interested to see some of the process work (sketches, physical models) posted here. I would like to know how you approximated the tree “structure” in physical model format. I have attempted a similar ‘dynamic’ model and found it so maddening. It made me want to have 4 or 5 extra sets of hands to adjust and fix things in place.

    Thanks for sharing the info. I look forward to seeing more from you guys.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Being able to read helps —– Reiterative feedback and forth between physical and computer modeling(autocad and rhino). Lots of sketch models. — as len wrote

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I like the interior space!Maybe if the exterior cladding is white or other pure colour ,I would like it more!

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    this blows me away, so different to normal down under architecture with incline roof & cantilevered truss. very rough but still so refined. great work

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