The house at Whitehall Road is positioned on the crest of a hill, to take advantage of the sweeping views of the surrounding landscape down to Bass Strait. It is primarily a response to the exposure and drama of the site, through the creation of a built form which partially merges with the landscape, framing views of the site and unfolding in a series of interconnected spaces as one moves through the house.
The house has been located with deference to a grove of mature gum trees on the site, which provide shade to the outdoor areas. Their tall and slender trunks form a counterpoint to the low horizontality of the house. The dominant feature of the house is the massive drystone wall which runs the full length of the building. The wall counters the exposure of the site, and provides extensive outdoor terraces by cutting into the slope of the hill.
The brief called for five bedrooms and several living areas, to be used by both the owners and their guests. The house has been designed as a series of pavilions, to provide some separation to the various functions of the house and some privacy to the different users. This also helps to mediate the scale of the house when seen from neighbouring properties, and enables the creation of multiple outdoor spaces between each built element.
BE Architecture has developed a multi-disciplinary practice which draws upon the diverse skills of its staff and covers a range of disciplines including interior, industrial and landscape design. This means that a number of consultants that would normally be needed on a project of this scale are not required. However, key contributions to the project were made by the structural engineer, through the design of an economical and understated structure, and various earthworks contractors who carried out the substantial siteworks including excavation, irrigation and the creation of new dams.
The project was cost effective in spite of the rural location due to the minimisation of the number of trades required. The bulk of the house was built by carpenters utilising conventional lightweight construction techniques. The extensive stonework was also constructed primarily by bricklayers utilising largely uncut local stone, as the drystone wall was designed and detailed for ease of construction.
The house has been designed and constructed with sustainability in mind. Insulation techniques throughout the house are above and beyond standard requirements, as the house features numerous layers of insulation, applied at each different stage of the construction. External walls feature thick frames, boosting thermal performance. Windows are double glazed with split frames. A variety of other techniques including thermal extract fans, hydronic heating and solar hot water also minimise energy consumption. Extensive underground rainwater tanks provide water for irrigation and all functions required by the house.