The winding and weaving nature of the approach road, along a rural dirt road through the landscape to the escarpment clearing, suggested an architectural response in the form of a line in the landscape as a continuation of previous investigations by the practice into the formal and spatial potential of a singular line in a powerful landscape setting. Here, a timber line runs parallel to the road and switches back and forth through the trees, gradually rising in height until it reaches a climax at the edge of the escarpment. Partway along this wall, its underbelly is eroded by a dark base (providing concealed entry doors) that alters in height. The only clues to habitation are small lancet windows toward the high end of the wall.
The singular quality of this timber line eschews any notion of domesticity or romantic “rural” habitation. Rather, it acts as a monumental object which navigates its landscape setting and provides both a “place” to inhabit within that landscape and a backdrop to it.
The house itself is located in a “poche” space created between the timber wall and a dark-coloured metal-clad wall beyond. This metal-clad wall varies in its distance from the timber wall, narrow at the approach end before opening out to the double-headed view to the southern waterways. The metal wall and roof are combined in a singular element that simplifies the external expression of the house, eliminating any intermediate scale within the composition. Windows are combined into two major openings further magnifying the scale of the house.
The opportunity to revisit a project 2 years after it’s previous development in the office (refer Fern Tree House 1) but this time with a new client who had recently purchased the bush site, brought with it considerable site and project awareness but refreshed by the new client’s modified briefing priorities and expectations. It also served as an opportunity to reflect on the practice’s development over many years, with many projects and research (including a significant proportion of Masters research by Gerard and Scott at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology).
Occupying the end of a “line” – manifest in the drive from the city of Hobart up Mount Wellington to this foothill escarpment – from where primary water views to the south are experienced remained a strong conceptual driver, a carry-over from Fern Tree House 1. This iteration of the project however brought with it a re-awakening of the potent connection through the landscape on offer; between the summit of Mount Wellington and southern water views. Eschewing any notion of “line” as physical trace only – this underpinned the original Fern Tree House 1 – the project developed as a desire to capture the moment of “fusing” a trajectory of personal arrival with that of a latent landscape connection from the mountain pinnacle, and jointly projecting out to the southern view from the escarpment.
Externally the house is a lithe, low-lying “container” in the otherwise natural bush setting. It seeks to disappear – stealthbomber like – aided by the blankness of it’s external dark-coloured metal cladding, applied in flat sheets with a gentle tilting off the vertical of the lapped-joints in a rhythm similar to the adjacent tree trunks. The firmly-grounded sense when viewed from most aspects is contrasted by the culminating end projecting off the escarpment edge – a physical accompaniment to the spatial experience from the inside of being projected out “to” the views.
The blankness of the exterior is continued internally in the “public” spaces, furthering the idea of an uncanny container-like object in lieu of any semblance towards the “domestic”. The interior is in fact another exterior and equally “blunt” albeit the external tough metal cladding is replaced with a homogeneous ‘white’ surface. A crumpled ceiling expresses the force of the real (human arrival) and unreal (latent landscape line between mountain and view) vectors pushing in through the container-like internal space and fusing in to a singular projection to the distant water view; the ceiling profile relaxes as it approaches the culminating end space from where the views are experienced, similar to the effect of smoke travelling through a wind tunnel.
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