Resident architecture expert, David Hallett from Ask An Architect, gives us his opinion on the Hornsby Heights Adobe House from Episode 4, Season 4 of Grand Designs Australia.
Don’t be fooled...beneath this muddy confection lurks a reactionary building.
It’s a reaction against conventional design, with the feeling and function of the interior spaces determining the exterior form of the building. So many new homes are designed with street appeal as the priority, but this home has been designed from the inside out to create an Aladdin's cave to house the owner's collection of indigenous treasures.
The approach is admirable, but it makes for an occasional awkwardness as the building pushes hard against the landscape to squeeze itself onto the site. Unlike the work of the ‘Sydney School’ architects of the 1960’s who nestled their buildings inconspicuously into craggy hillsides, this building defies its context and stands resolutely against the terrain.
It’s also a reaction against conventional construction systems, at least in part. Buildings on steep slopes benefit from alternatives to standard industry methods that save time and cost, however much of the skeleton of this building relies on conventional concrete slabs, timber framing and steel roofing. Its clay skin, however, is anything but conventional.
Whilst smearing clay over corrugated steel sheeting owes more to ‘wattle and daub’ than traditional adobe construction the resultant finish has generated a lovely warmth and texture, particularly throughout the interior. Unfortunately, first-world labour rates have made a third-world technique expensive and I'd hate to be doing the dusting!
Finally, it’s a reaction against the conventional building procurement method...a method that Kerry describes as “Germanic” but which generally leaves little to chance. There’s an enchanting naivety in Kerry and Judy’s laissez-faire approach but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Building without any apparent plans, dimensions, specifications or even a contract has clearly been a rewarding process in this instance, but it can be fraught with danger without a partner like Peter to guide the way.
This house is a wolf in sheep's clothing...outwardly calm but conceived in a revolutionary spirit. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd prefer to see a resolved design, detailed drawings and specifications, a firm price and a building contract any day. Keep in mind that the project ran $150,000 over budget!
So, ‘Vive la Revolution!’...but consider the consequences.