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Marion Bay House

On a striking site, a timber-clad wall wraps a geometric building form before disappearing into the slope of the paddock.

Every time we place a new building in the ground, we establish and reflect a relationship with the natural elements. Of course, this isn’t a new idea – in fact, there is enough writing on it to fill several libraries – but the proliferation of discussion doesn’t reduce the tussle with the issue that each architect experiences as they evolve a design. Placing a building within a spectacular natural setting only amplifies the debate. No stranger to this discussion, 1+2 Architecture evolved a design for a holiday home in the middle of a paddock on the side of a windswept hill, overlooking the Tasman Sea.

This “square, straight, modern” home is defined by a macrocarpa wall that wraps three of its faces.

This “square, straight, modern” home is defined by a macrocarpa wall that wraps three of its faces.

Image: Jonathan Wherrett

Answering a “fairytale” fax that arrived at the beginning of a Christmas break, 1+2 took on a loose, one-page brief from a couple based in Denmark. They had chosen a prime site in the middle of their sixty-hectare property overlooking Marion Bay, about forty-five minutes east of Hobart. Key desires stated within the brief were for a holiday home that was “square, straight, modern,” designed to “get the most out of the beautiful spot.” They planned to visit the house a few times a year for long stays, renting it as a guesthouse for the remaining period. The preferred site was on a knoll looking out to the wide view.

As Mike Verdouw of the practice states, this building would always be about “first-time visits,” or reconnections after extended periods away. So they understood that the experience would begin with a sense of delicious anticipation, well before anyone arrived at the front door. Consequently, considerable time was spent negotiating and planning the location of the 1.5-kilometre access road in relation to the site for the house. The revised site suggested by the practice runs east–west on the slope and sits just below the selected knoll. The approach road comes in from the west, skirting around a gully holding a remnant line of eucalypts.

The timber wall is a “ribbon” that extends above the building as a parapet and beyond as a "disappearing” barrier.

The timber wall is a “ribbon” that extends above the building as a parapet and beyond as a “disappearing” barrier.

Image: Jonathan Wherrett

While there are undoubtedly some happy accidents in the process, the outcome of this journey planning is delightful. The first, distant glimpse of the building is from the north-west, at an oblique angle to the building, revealing its angled form and glazed northern face. Disappearing behind the line of eucalypts, the structure reappears from due west, where one sees the wedge-like plan form marked out by the parapet before it once again slides from view. Breaching the brow of the hill, the visitor emerges above the house, which sits within the breathtaking panorama. As the road wraps around to the southern face for the last leg of the journey, the defining feature of the building – a sloping, sheer, timber-clad wall – shields the vista and offers up an extraordinary sight with which to begin a holiday.

The plan form of the house is defined by the macrocarpa wall, which wraps the southern, eastern and northern faces of the building. Conceptually, the practice saw this element as a “ribbon” or a “fence” that is articulated by its extension above the building as a parapet, and beyond the building as a timber barrier that seems to disappear into the slope of the paddock. Using a plank and batten system, the rough-sawn timber is intended to grey in the weather, allowing the house to read as a lone building in a paddock, like its lowlier farm-shed cousins. Climatically, the tall “fence” protects against the southern extremes, restricting apparent openings to one recessed doorway, while opening out towards the sun and view through a series of simple incisions on the east and north faces.

The southern wall wraps the back of the sitting room so that there is a more enclosed, cosy space for relaxing in.

The southern wall wraps the back of the sitting room so that there is a more enclosed, cosy space for relaxing in.

Image: Jonathan Wherrett

Once you pass through this stark southern wall, the rough, textured language of the wall drops away, leaving a smooth, white, light-filled interior. The building program is very simple, with sleeping and service spaces separated from living areas by an adjoining entry foyer and courtyard deck. The southern wall wraps the back of the sitting room so that there is a more enclosed, cosy space in which to read or watch television, while the kitchen, dining room and lounge space are entirely focused towards the glazing, which frames the view.

It is interesting to consider the question of whether holidays should be about withdrawal or reconnection. For its part, this house sets up a relationship with the landscape that is predominantly about pleasant separation. The isolated position in the paddock offers an elevated platform from which to view nature from a distance. The double-glazed apertures in the building skin become like viewing screens, through which one watches the weather pass or tiny boats silently make their way around the spit. While it is difficult to find fault with the approach (and I’m sure it’s a delight to stay here), I wonder if the interior could have captured more of the hide-and-reveal nature of the approach drive. For the daily act of dwelling in the building, it may have been interesting to offer other “depths of field” or viewing foci, if only to increase the drama of arriving at the optimum point from which to experience the stunning panorama.

Products and materials

Roofing
Lysaght Trimdek Hi-Ten, ‘Woodland Grey’; Zincalume flashings; Sisalation Heavy Duty to underside of metal roofing; Insulco Fat Batts R4.0.
External walls
Rough-sawn Cupressus macrocarpa pine; CSR Cemintel cement sheet, raw finish, Bondall sealer; Sisalation Heavy Duty Wall Wrap (Breather) wall batts, R2.5.
Internal walls
Boral plasterboard, painted Dulux ‘White Watsonia,’ and acoustic plasterboard; solid Tasmanian oak pelmet.
Windows
Euroaluminium Australia silver anodized aluminium windows.
Doors
Hume Doors and Timber Tasmanian oak timber veneer.
Flooring
Carter Holt Harvey Tasmanian oak on trudek subflooring; R-Flor particleboard.
Lighting
Osirion 5-watt LED uplights; Xenflex LED flexible strip light; Vector wall-mounted uplight; Aureol Fresco asymmetric wall washer.
Kitchen
Smeg fridge, cooktop, oven, double-bowl sink; Scala square chrome sink mixer; Blum Blumotion and Tandembox drawer and cupboard systems; Wilson & Bradley handles; Häfele pantry pull-out baskets; Kimberley single slide-out bin cupboard; CaesarStone benchtop in ‘Ice Snow’; MDF drawers, cupboards and fixed panels.
Bathroom
White Stone Hox wall basin with Modina bottle trap; Scala mini vanity basin, shower head, shower mixer; Caroma Cube Close Coupled WC; Kaldewei Vaio Rectangle bath.
Heating/cooling
Fujitsu inverter a/c unit; ErgoFocus suspended fireplace.
Other
Biolytix grey water waste treatment system; Jens Juul Eilersen black leather sofas; Poul Henningsen Artichoke lamp; Roderick Vos Linteloo Log coffee table.

Credits

Architect
1plus2 Architecture
Hobart, Tas, Australia
Project Team
Mike Verdouw, Cath Hall, Fred Ward, Piers Chamberlen, Mark Kukola
Consultants
Builder Davis & Dobson Builders
Building surveyor Lee Tyers and Associates
Civil and structural consultant Aldanmark Consulting Engineers
Construction manager Peter Davis
Cost consultant Stehel Consultants
Engineer Aldanmark Consulting Engineers
Geotechnical consultants Geo-environmental Solutions
Hydraulic consultant Aldanmark Consulting Engineers
Land surveyor Noel Leary and Associates
Lighting consultant Southern Lighting
Site details
Location Marion Bay,  Tas,  Australia
Site type Rural
Building area 194 m2
Category Residential buildings
Type Houses, Residential
Project Details
Status Built
Design, documentation 13 months
Construction 9 months

Source

Project

Published online: 3 Nov 2011
Words: Judith Abell
Images: Jonathan Wherrett

Issue

Houses, October 2011

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