Resident architecture expert, David Hallett from Ask An Architect, gives us his opinion on The Toowoomba English Farmhouse from Episode 6, Season 5 of Grand Designs Australia.
This house is something of a folly.
Not in the etymological sense of being a foolish undertaking, but in the architectural sense that it’s a curious indulgence…an extravagant tribute to heritage that’s just a little eccentric!
Sarah and Alistair’s home is imbued with a spirit of place, but not the place in which it’s built. It’s reminiscent of another place far, far away with which they have ancestral ties.
So what do you make of a house that looks backwards rather than forward?
There’s a pioneering quality about this building. It’s incongruous when the area was settled almost 200 years ago, but the house seeks to echo the forms and materials of ‘the old country’ in the same way that the early settlers did when they colonized these shores.
Australia’s first buildings owed much to contemporary English design, which in turn was influenced by historical European styles. Even the humble terraces of Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne were based upon an English prototype, although it didn’t take long for people to realize the importance of verandahs and window shades in a far hotter climate.
These buildings addressed some of the principles of what we would these days call ‘sustainable design’ with their high thermal mass construction and small windows. The same can be said of this house, which is presumably also blessed with ceiling insulation!
You have to admire any building that’s been conceived in the third dimension.
So many homes are simply a three-dimensional representation of a plan with a level floor and a flat ceiling. This home steps down the slope to minimize its impact on the site and the double-height entry and library will feel truly grand. The impact of volume upon the feel of a space can’t be over-estimated and it’s one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to create mood.
The entrance hall is King Arthur; the library is My Fair Lady and the ‘bookcase’ is so-o-o James Bond – the romance of the cinema has arrived in the Toowoomba hills!
There’s a stage set-like quality about this house which is hardly surprising. The owners have deliberately contrived a building that – in some ways – is artificial. This house doesn’t seek to reflect current trends, nor respond to local context. Instead, it’s steeped in nostalgia and evocative of another time…a time that holds meaning and memory for its owners.
It’s an English manor in regional Queensland…with a touch of ‘Follywood’.