Our Clients, who have a building and development business, approached us for a new house on the steep slopes of Mount Eagle. Some of the opportunities were immediately evident – superb, uninterrupted views to the north and east and a context of mature tree canopies on the large adjoining sites which form a beautiful backdrop but also afford privacy to the house and garden. Because the site was subdivided from the garden of a larger property, it is relatively compact, consequently the site also came with a covenant restricting the building envelope, ostensibly to preserve the park-like surrounds and privacy to adjoining gardens. Strict controls on protecting existing trees and augmenting the forest like canopy of the neighbourhood with new trees also had to be considered.
The brief called for a four bedroom house with study, play room and gym as well as a large garage, consequently the design process required a very hard-working plan and section. The plan had to resolve conflicting demands of amenity, privacy and aspect and the section had to facilitate an easy ascent and descent through the house and to visually and inherently connect the seven levels – to avoid a feeling of layers and make the vertical relationships as effortless as the horizontal connections. The result is unexpectedly medieval, a sense that there is always another thing around the corner or down a twist of stairs, and that at every turn there is a new spatial experience or unexpected aspect.
Our Client’s suggestion of Frank Lloyd Wright as a visual springboard for the house resulted in a deep, floating eave above a ribbon of vertically, articulated casement windows resting on a massive masonry plinth. Because the elevated site is so exposed, we felt it was important to make the building suggestive of a rich domestic interior whilst maintaining a sense of inscrutability - to this end the exterior is intriguing, it hints at the life within, yet remains enigmatic and private.
It is a house designed to be there for a long time, to grow into its surroundings as the tree canopy rises around it and for this reason it is built from robust materials which will improve in appearance as they show signs of age – natural cement render and pre-aged copper cladding. The interior is contrasting in its warmth, texture and emphasis on refinement. The contrast emphasises a sense of threshold, the sense of a domestic interior as a refuge that is distinct from the garden. The inhabited external spaces are also distinct – contained, textural, formal and devised as a bridge between the park-like surrounds and the softness of the interior.