Grand Designs Australia

Brookfield Spotted Gum House

Resident architecture expert, David Hallett from Ask An Architect, gives us his opinion on the Brookfield Spotted Gum House from Episode 8, Season 5 of Grand Designs Australia.

Wow…what a house!

A house of contrasts, surprises and delights that re-defines the rural homestead, for this is an urban homestead…country by nature but city by expression.

Australian farmhouses are traditionally modest and generally predictable. Low-slung and verandah-brimmed, they nestle anonymously into the landscape to provide shelter from sun and storms. They‘re simple, pragmatic buildings that don’t give much back or away.

Not this one. It’s a stranger, but not an intruder. It’s unfamiliar, but it’s more of a farmhouse than it looks.

Rural buildings are usually built using local materials; they’re things of stone and wood.

Steel, glass and concrete weren’t available to our forefather but they are now, so why not use them? They allow the soaring spans and sweeping views that separate the art from the ordinary and they’ve been used to marvelous effect in this home.

It’s not without reference to the vernacular, though. The spotted gum cladding echoes the stands of nearby eucalypts and whilst the cost of local stone was prohibitive, the building sits on its own roughcast masonry escarpment.

Building on a sloping site is difficult at the best of times, but for an owner-builder it presents an extra steep learning curve. Add the challenge of a bespoke design, the complexity of precise geometry and the vagaries of weather and you have an assignment that would daunt most.

Andrew and his team went about their task with a resourcefulness that typifies the rural spirit. Didn’t we all enjoy seeing an old ute deployed to help shift steel sheets when the crane couldn’t do any more?

Armed with little more than a battered hat and his family’s trust, Andrew methodically worked his way through unfamiliar territory to build a thing of beauty. He learned pretty quickly that managing a building project is a lot harder than just playing a part, but he did it…well done, mate.

Design is so much more than lines on paper marking out walls, doors and windows.

Milly and Andrew wanted a farmhouse but they got so much more. Sure it’s a long, slender home that features the use of local materials but it’s also a response to their family, the environment and a lifestyle that transcends convention.

Good design always delivers more than expected.

This house is more of a cobra than a chameleon. Cobras are confronting of course, but who remembers a chameleon?

Visit Ask An Architect for more information.

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