Resident architecture expert, David Hallett from Ask An Architect, gives us his opinion on the Ilford Sheep Station from Episode 7, Season 4 of Grand Designs Australia.
Our earliest settlers stared down the challenges of a harsh landscape to build huts, houses and sheds using whatever materials they had to hand. When flood or fire struck, they re-built them with a fierce determination that’s hard to comprehend these days.
Meredith and Matt’s home reflects this resourcefulness, although it’s borne of philosophy rather than necessity. Site-found stone and timber have created some wonderfully rustic finishes that make the building more at home in its surroundings and using home-grown wool to create insulation is especially inventive. Re-using and recycling locally sourced materials demonstrates an admirable commitment to sustainable construction (even though the fleeces had to be sent all the way to Melbourne before returning as batts!).
Their adaptive re-use of available materials isn’t the only thing they have in common with the pioneers, however.
Matt and Meredith didn’t want a traditional farmhouse but in many ways they got one. Whilst it’s far from being a mock-colonial, verandah-fringed homestead its rectilinear form, industry-standard construction techniques and simple gabled roof make it a pretty conventional building.
Even so, a number of interesting features transcend the farmhouse archetype. The pavilion approach makes good sense from both functional and sustainable perspectives, allowing the living and sleeping zones to be independently air-conditioned. The vaulted, open-plan living area is terrific, evoking memories of farmhouse kitchens and shared family meals after a hard day’s work. The pool and the outdoor living areas are also more contemporary features...certainly not something usually associated with life on the land.
This is a lovely home, but there’s an unresolved tension between new and old; between invention and convention; between evolution and revolution.
Perhaps it’s the result of a pragmatic compromise between client, designer and builder (certainly they never quite seemed to be on the same page!) but does the building capitalise on its magnificent location, a generous budget and an inspiring brief?
Is it the home they wanted or the one they settled for?