House H

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The original house sat within a large, breathtaking landscape yet the interior was inward looking with minimal views of the garden, bush and vineyard beyond. The brief from the clients was to connect this relationship between inhabitant, building and scene to allow contemplation of the landscape.

The extension is seen as a sculptural counterpoint to the existing low-slung rammed earth bedrooms and garage. Its undulating and sculptural form was a direct request by the clients who, over the past decade, have developed the 20 or so acres of manicured garden into a private sculpture park.

In building the new wing that extends toward the rise the house is situated on, the living areas have been reoriented north to maximise natural light and also allow views not previously available without walking outside.

In addition to the aspirations of the clients we explored the limits of the project’s structure. The project was developed through a close working relationship with the structural engineer, Steve Burdett. Primary structure, roof and walls work independently of one another creating points of tension and ‘accidental’ collision throughout the project.   The roof uses a prefabricated self-supporting sandwich panel. These are spaced according to maximum distances set out by the manufacturer, and refined through solar testing. The long span portals are braced by a fine ribbon of plywood that winds it’s way around the house. At points this plywood ribbon is wall like, in other locations it’s surface carries lights, or conceals services. It is continuous along the entire perimeter of the extension, and divides the lower operable doors and the high level glazing.

The brief was for new living spaces both internally and externally.  An open kitchen, living and dining room was built with a smaller scaled sitting room and study located behind the service core of kitchen, pantry and powder room that divide the main volume.  A large cellar was carved underground. Within the original buildings the bedrooms were retrofitted, bathrooms reconfigured and a new ensuite built.  Externally spaces were developed that operate at a range of scales from small, intimate sitting spaces to larger entertaining spaces.  Important to the scheme was the need to for the house to easily accommodate two people or a hundred. The point at which old meets new is a hinge, a courtyard that frames the sky. In contrast to the main living areas this space offers no views to the landscape.

Environmental sustainability informed many of the decisions made on the project.  Cross ventilation, passive solar principles and natural lighting determined much of the planning.  Grey water and recycling systems are integrated into the design as well as an underground tank to provide coolth to the floor’s thermal mass.  Steel is used extensively.  Other materials include prefabricated R4.0 insulated roof panels, low E glass, recycled timber floorboards, plantation timber, ply cladding and recycled jarrah decking. Importantly, most of the existing house was re-used, reconfigured and a new stage of life for the clients and their wonderful site has been created.