Graham Jones Design won the Award for New Houses $500K–$1M Construction Cost in the BDAV’s 2011 Building Design Awards for their ‘Quietways’ project, which was also a Joint Winner in the Most Innovative Kitchen Design category.
The name given to this project by the designer is apt – there is nothing loud or showy in this project. Unashamedly contemporary in form, the simplicity of form and materials allow this house to sit placidly within its rural setting.
Initial discussions with the client, designer and the builder revealed their shared excitement with finding innovative architec-tural solutions in a rural setting. The site is nestled in a quiet rural valley, only minutes away from the outskirts of sprawling suburbia. Having spent time living on site in an existing humble tin shed, the owners were familiar with the qualities (and the challenges) of the site. Their brief to the designers was for a contemporary reinterpretation of the country vernacular that actively engages with the landscape by creating unique opportunities for dramatic views, absolute privacy and tranquillity.
In a carefully choreographed entry sequence, site access is gained through a sweeping driveway that gently weaves guests through existing sheds and towards the house, whilst discretely withholding the expansive northerly view across a large dam, farmed fields and wooded hillsides. A local drystone wall creates a north-south axis and leads guests to the entry where the views are revealed.
To take advantage of the views, the living areas and master run lengthwise to compose most of the plan of an elongated cranked timber box that has been angled (both in plan and elevation), to cradle the banks of the dam and to set up dialogue with the slope of the site. A separate private zone and garage anchor each end of the main building form, creating a large courtyard encompassing an entry court and formal courtyard.
The kitchen is arranged to form the heart of the living zone. It enjoys a shared elevated position and is bridged by an infinity edge pool, making the kitchen feel as if you are standing on the banks of the dam. Most rooms are planned to capture expansive northerly views across a large dam to the hillsides. The kitchen is no exception, even when your back is turned to the view, you are confronted with reflective glimpses from the surface of the mirror finished splashback.
In keeping with the drama of the site – and to the delight of the client – a palette of largely raw materials was used, with expression of forms signified by differentiations in materiality. The timber volume is suspended, creating an elevated viewing platform, whilst the corten and raw render volumes anchor the house to the land. The claddings are allowed to weather, and are applied in a natural and subtle manner. Upon closer inspection reveals more delights. The project is carefully resolved and crafted, displaying a meticulous attention to detail. Particular construction methods were discussed regularly on-site, and the re-detailing of components, closely done together with the builder, enabled ease of fabrication. Expansive glazing allows the landscape to fill the interior.
The house is low impact and has several sustainable features. Passive heating and cooling methods have been applied; all rainwater is collected and grey water is treated on site to cater for all domestic needs. The timbers used in construction originated from managed plantations and the windows are double glazed.
The aim of the project was to balance comfort, necessities and fully engage in an exploration of intimate responses to landscape, preservation of site and the optimisation of views. A carefully considered material palette and new architectural principles were applied to create a harmonious relationship between a modest family home and a delicate site. Big on ideas but modest in architectural statement, the house not only exceeded the clients expectations but opened up a totally new direction for the designer.
“While obviously luxuriously appointed, this house is refined in all aspects,” said the Judges. “A limited palette of interior finishes echoes the simplicity of the exterior – colours are neutral, and traffic areas are defined by warm timber flooring which offsets areas of light coloured tile and carpet. Accents are provided throughout by sleek, dark coloured, high gloss cabinets and strategically place timber linings. Overall, this house exhibits elegance and restraint, ensuring it a place ahead of some very strong competition in this category.”
Designer: Graham Jones Design
Photographer: Chris Groenhout