From the initial discussion with the client it became apparent that this building would need to be non-specific in its program, a blank volume of space only hinting at a possible program while also having the capability to be divided in a manner to formalise a more ‘conventional’ space for living.
It would have to be nothing one minute and everything the next, required to regularly - and effortlessly - switch between an empty nondescript shell of possibilities to a fully functioning private residence - a knitting studio, a reading room, a weekender, a home office, Friday night drinks with the neighbours, yoga, Christmas day lunch…
At the heart of it all, the underlying theme knitting the varied programs together was the idea of retreat, a slow moving space that would provide a refuge from the hectic paces of modern life. A slow building for slow living.
The response to the open-ended brief was to create flexibility through adaptability. The idea that the space can be divided or united depending on the requirements of that given moment.
Purposefully lo-fi, The Retreat embraces a low-tech aesthetic towards the operation of the building itself, fully embodying the concept of retreating and slowing down.
Celebrating craftsmanship and integrity of materiality instead of technology, every wall of the building has been designed with integrated components that manually fold, open and close to control the space and transform the program of the building.
Rather than pressing a button on a remote control, the inhabitant must fold and unfold the various components by hand, mindfully manipulating the space they inhabit, consequently becoming a part of the building, not the master of it.
The south wall contains the foldaway bed and houses a desk, book shelves, general storage and also conceals the air conditioner. The east wall has a series of flaps that unfold and work together to create a long table while also revealing the shallow storage between the timber wall framing behind.
The west wall houses the kitchen, the main work space (consisting of a large desk area incorporating concertina doors to conceal the ‘everyday mess’ of a study space & a flap that folds down to create a standing desk utilising the sunken floor area to the north) and a hidden door leading to the bathroom. Immediately in front of the glazed north wall is the sunken ‘day bed’ providing multiple options for sitting and watching the ducks. A series of plywood boxes have been designed to ‘infill’ the sunken section, providing a larger usable area for parties and gatherings by creating a consistent floor level when in place, while also providing a versatile option for additional tables and seating when removed from the recess and placed throughout the space. The connection with place - in this case nature - is an important element... the chorus of native birdlife, the relentless croak of the frogs, the mesmerising water reflections dancing on the walls & ceiling, the ducks paddling past and the dense greenery swaying in the breeze. ———————— SUSTAINABILITY STATEMENT There is no town water at the property so the rainwater from the roof is harvested and stored in water tanks for all uses. All windows are glazing using low-e double-glazing. The building is passively cooled via operable windows on the north elevation which open close to water level so that as the northerly winds are cooled by the water mass they are drawn directly into the space while hot air from inside is pushed out a window on the opposite elevation. The rammed earth volume on the western side of the building acts as a thermal mass, storing the warmth from the afternoon sun, emitting it into the building slowly to maintain a mild internal temperature. As the natural environment and serene rural context was a key element to the overall success of the internal spaces, care was taken during the siting, design and construction to ensure that the building imposed minimal impact on its immediate environment. Vegetation and natural ground remained largely undisturbed and the floor plan was rigorously worked to provide the greatest possibly economy of space ensuring that the building footprint was as minimal.