Angophora House

Angophora House

Architect
Richard Cole Architecture
Location
Waverton, Australia
Project Year
2012
Category
Private Houses
Simon Wood

Angophora House

Richard Cole Architecture as Architects

What is the conceptual framework of the project - including underlying principles, values, core ideas and/or philosophy? *


Angophora Costata are eucalypts that are endemic to the south east coast of Australia. Several magnificent specimens cling to the escarpment which runs through the site. The design slips beneath the canopies of these beautiful trees, with their smooth pink bark and twisted limbs. “Angophora” derives from Greek words “angos” meaning “vessel” or “vase” and “phero” meaning “to bear or carry”, in reference to the fruit. A house also is vessel, one which contains the lives of its inhabitants. The nature of that vessel contributes to how the inhabitants experience their day to day existence, and how they are placed in the world. In this case the inhabitants are the parents of the architect and the vessel is crafted to accommodate their particular way of being. The design strategically and carefully responds to the site, encouraging interaction.


Built for the architect’s parents, the house is fully accessible and designed for “ageing in place”. Of conservative background, the design of their final house is the embodiment of a leap of faith.


Natural materials and textures achieve a raw warmth. The form is carefully composed and articulated with beauty the objective. Meticulously crafted, it does not conceal the marks of its making.


What contribution does the design make to the lives of the inhabitants?


The house acts as a container for the possessions accumulated over a lifetime. The architect knew intimately how his parents lived, their habits and routines. There is a place for a whisky bottle, a kitchen nook where busy schedules can be organized, a deck where dusk can be savoured. The house is both sanctuary and gallery. The Artek breakfast table and chairs are the same treasured design as purchased in the 1960’s. The Blackwood table designed by the architect complements an existing Richard Vaughan sideboard and responds specifically to the space it occupies.


What is the relationship of the built form to the context of the project?


Built over an escarpment in a densely urbanised heritage conservation area in Waverton, the form responds to the difficult site using elements of cave, platform and canopy. The design anticipates a sequential experience: entering from the street to a tranquil courtyard with a linear pond and stone wall, though the concrete and masonry cave-like northern rooms, to the light filled open space beneath the sculptural canopy roof, a room with the refuge of encompassing solid walls and the prospect of views over the valley. Two platforms launch from the anchoring escarpment. The unexpected raw rock face is revealed below.


Program resolution - how does the functional performance match the clients' brief?


The brief called for a compact but spacious feeling light filled house to accommodate the needs of a couple as they aged. Practical elements like oversized push handle doors that open both ways, a dramatic lift to the garage below and separable accommodation for future carers are incorporated, but beauty, character and creation of experiential opportunities were paramount. A sheltering timber lined roof invites northern sun, falls with the slope and captures framed views of adjacent Angophora trees. The escarpment is retained, raw and open to the rooms of the lower ground floor. Insulated timber moveable walls are transformative.


Integration of allied disciplines - how has the contributions of others, including architects, interior designers, landscape architects, builders and other specialists helped achieve the outcome?


The house is a testament to the dedicated craftsmen who built it. The concrete, steelwork, sliding timber windows and screens, pivot doors, timber ceiling and cladding, joinery, zinc cladding, steel plate windows, frameless and curved glazing, concealed lighting and stonework are all custom made hand crafted elements. The design called for minimal tolerances, requiring a high level of skill and cooperation between trades. The dining room table, a design project in itself, used CNC router prototypes combined with hand shaping to refine the design. An elemental, lush native‐based garden by Jane Britt will increasingly complement the design as it matures.


Cost/value outcome - how effective were the decisions related to financial issues?


While overall economy was always an important design parameter, quality was always the primary consideration. Economy of scale was an objective, and the scale of the project restrained when compared to many contemporary houses. This dwelling is spacious but no mansion. The difficulty of the site and restricted access options necessitated significant and expensive geotechnical work, particularly to excavate the garage. Material selection focussed on quality and durability. Weathering is considered. Timber is limited externally to reduce maintenance. Richness is achieved through the simple detailing and beauty of natural materials. Inherent value is achieved by longevity.


How does this project demonstrate innovation and excellence in terms of environmental sustainability?


Specific environmental attributes incorporated within the building are:  Insulated double glazed sliding doors forming operable external walls with integrated magnetically operated internal louvre blinds to bedrooms  Thermal stability using mass of rock face  Water harvesting and reticulation with a 10,000 litre tank  Photovoltaic solar collection  Six star instantaneous gas hot water system  Solar passive design on a south facing site  Maximisation of natural daylighting  Provision of cross ventilation  100% LED lighting  Efficient heating and cooling system  Minimised requirement for artificial cooling achieved through solar passive design.  Blended wool insulation used throughout construction  Materials selected for longevity, durability and weathering properties.


How does the design respond to the heritage significance of the place, and demonstrate excellence in adaptive re-use and/or conservation?


The site is located between two heritage areas, on an escarpment which breaches two culde‐ sacs. Rather than cover and conceal the existing escarpment, it is revealed and exposed through the new building. On the high side a street of large detached Federation Arts and Crafts bungalows predominate. The lower street comprises a fine textured blocks of 19th and early 20th century worker/seafarer’s cottages. The topography, site boundaries, orientation and setbacks separate the dwelling from both streetscapes, leaving only the entry gates and garage as street frontages. This separation permits in the design response a bold sculptural gesture that is primarily site driven. The deliberate contrast preserves the integrity of the existing fabric.


Architect’s Statement


Built over an escarpment in a densely urbanised heritage conservation area in Waverton, the form of this house responds to the difficult site using the elements of cave, platform and canopy. The house features exposed rock outcrops within the lower ground floor rooms, a sculptural Tallowwood lined ceiling, sliding timber walls and custom made furniture.


The design anticipates a sequential experience of entering from the street to a tranquil courtyard with a linear pond and stone wall, though the concrete and masonry cave-like northern part of the house, to the light filled open space beneath the sculptural canopy roof. This space has the refuge of a solid wall at one’s back and the prospect of views over the valley. Two platforms launch into the space of the valley, extending out from the anchoring escarpment. Insulated timber moveable walls transform the space from warm and enclosing to open and unimpeded.


A sheltering timber lined roof opens to the north, falls in response to the slope of the land and captures framed views of adjacent Angophora trees. The escarpment is retained, raw and open to the rooms of the lower ground floor. A dramatic lift takes the owners to the garage on the street below. Built for the architect’s parents, the house is fully accessible and designed for “ageing in place”. Of conservative background, the design of their final house is the embodiment of a leap of faith.


Natural materials and textures achieve warmth. The form is carefully composed and articulated with beauty the objective. Meticulously crafted, it does not conceal the marks of its making. The house acts as a container for the possessions the owners have accumulated over their lifetime. The architect had the advantage of knowing intimately how his parents lived, their habits and routines. There is a place for a whisky bottle, a nook adjacent to the kitchen where busy schedules can be organized, a deck where the evening can be appreciated as the sun goes down. The house is a gallery for a wonderful collection of art works. The Artek breakfast table and chairs are the same treasured design as were purchased in the 1960’s. The Tasmanian Blackwood table was designed by the architect to complement an existing Richard Vaughan sideboard and respond specifically to the space it occupies.


Angophora Costata are eucalypts that are endemic to the south east coast of Australia. The design slips beneath the canopies of these beautiful trees, with their smooth pink bark and twisted limbs. “Angophora” derives from Greek words “angos” meaning “vessel” or “vase” and “phero” meaning “to bear or carry”, in reference to the fruit. A house also is vessel, one which contains the lives of its inhabitants. The nature of that vessel contributes to how the inhabitants experience their day to day existence, and how they are placed in the world. In this case the inhabitants are the parents of the architect and the vessel is crafted to accommodate their particular way of being.


Design Resolution


The house is a testament to the wonderful craftsmen who built it. The concrete, steelwork, sliding timber windows and screens, pivot doors, timber ceiling and cladding, joinery, zinc cladding, steel windows, frameless and curved glazing, concealed lighting and stonework are all hand crafted elements that were custom made for this house. The design called for minimal tolerances which required a high level of skill and cooperation between trades.


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