Sawmill House by Archier
Residential Architecture – Houses (New): National Award
Australian Institute of Architects
Through the old sawmill shed, the jury is escorted up a steep old steel-gridded ramp covered in blackberries, to meet the architect’s brother and client and to stand on a tower overlooking the site: “This is the best view of it.” And this is where the bird’s-eye view resonates.
The Sawmill House is one of understated brilliance, read from above as a long rectangular block, hugging the landform at its rear and flat-roofed with what appears to be a sliding roof section. A long timber-boarded verandah runs parallel to the rectangular house form and in front, the site drops away into what looks like an old dug-out pit. From above, one can see that there is a void behind the house, also dug out from a rear earth mound and lined with the same concrete blocks from which the house is constructed. Is this an ancient site, a ruin or an old quarry?
The concrete building blocks of the house are intriguingly huge. They appear made for giants. They are the recycled wastage of concrete from road making, road barriers and commercial building sites, recognizable by their colour. The blocks are uniform only in their tonnage; they bulge and angle, and stay in place by sheer weight and some slurry.
The rectangular house form is completed by occasional timber-steel columns and hidden beams supported on the blocks. When the equally long sliding door and roof are opened, the house almost disappears as one giant oculus is revealed and half the house is outdoors again. The verandah is balustraded from the pit below, with a set of equally long full-height bifold sliding trellis doors.
The interior – one long rectangular space – is just as clever. It’s another lesson in “less is more.” The eastern end wall is a pivot glass door that opens onto a grass lawn. The long rear southern wall, brass-clad, stores a concealed bathroom, an exposed kitchen and, behind a double-thick hinged insulated door, an opening to the southern-facing block-lined dug-out void, which acts as a cooling “sink” on heatwave days.
In just this simple space, there is daily life, work, bed, hearth, bath, verandah and sky – beauty, invention and ingenuity all in one.
Read the project review by Stuart Harrison from Houses 106.