|Allens Rivulet, Tasmania|
|Paul Bradshaw and Ben Hoskings|
In a contemporary interpretation of Gottfried Semper's idea of the hearth being the centre of domestic architecture, Room11 Architects has produced a welcoming and happy home
On a steep site at Allens Rivulet, about 30 kilometres south of Hobart, a new house appears like a black ribbon drawn across the brow of the hill.
The owners camped on the property before appointing architect Aaron Roberts of Room 11 to help them overcome the unique challenges of building there. "It was important to engage an architect because our site is not the easiest to work with, and designing a house in Tasmania can be challenging," one of the owners says.
Because the site sits within an environmental protection zone, the couple opted to build on a north-facing section that had been previously cleared, which boasted views of nearby Mt Wellington and the dense bushland on their property.
They asked Roberts to design a house with three bedrooms, open-plan living spaces, a studio and garage, and most importantly, to position the kitchen at its centre. "For me, the kitchen is the heart of the house," the owner says. "Everyone gravitates towards the kitchen. We wanted to put it at the middle of our house, and make it large enough to be inclusive."
Roberts took the clients' instructions literally and generated the entire plan from the inside out. He arranged living spaces and bedrooms, bathrooms and decks around the central kitchen. The grid-like arrangement allowed him to optimise functionality and circulation, sightlines and cross-ventilation.
"The way the entry and outdoor rooms are seemingly carved out of the black object that is the body of the house, revealing an inner material that is soft and warm, is the best feature of the house," Roberts says.
To emphasise the contrast between exterior and interior rooms, Roberts specified cladding made from COLORBOND® steel in the colour Night Sky®* – using Stramit Monoclad®^ profile for the roof and LYSAGHT PANELRIB®‡ profile for the walls.
Functionally, the cladding provides resistance to bushfires. "The cladding is completely sealed on the roof and underneath the house, so there is no possibility for embers to enter," the owner says.
From a financial perspective, the use of COLORBOND® steel for the roof and walls enabled the project to conform to the owners' tight budget. "Steel was used as the cladding because it was the most cost-effective material, and it had a very low maintenance schedule, something the clients were very keen on," Roberts says. "We looked into other forms of cladding, and for similar cost and maintenance performance, there wasn't any real alternative."
Affixing the COLORBOND® steel posed few issues for the roofers who clad the entire house, although the desire to achieve a taut carapace required some additional preparation, Roberts says. "The whole building was firstly clad in ply to add both structural integrity and insulation value, as well as to provide a surface to fix the LYSAGHT PANELRIB®," he explains.
Multiple fixings ensured an armour-like finish that resists expansion and contraction throughout contrasting cold and sunny periods.
So while the roof, enclosure and mound - to use Semper's terminology - may be secondary concerns, their careful organisation around the central "hearth" results in a warm and generous abode for its occupants. The success of the Allens Rivulet House suggests that Semper's ideas - derived from anthropology and ancient settlement patterns - still hold plenty of relevance for modern architectural practice after being published more than 150 years ago.
* Night Sky® is no longer part of the standard COLORBOND® steel colour range. Please talk to your nearest BlueScope Steel office regarding availability of non-standard colours for future projects.
^ Monoclad® is a registered trademark of Stramit Corporation Pty Ltd.
‡ LYSAGHT PANELRIB® is a registered trademark of BlueScope Steel Limited.
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