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Series 6 · Episode 1
Six years ago, sculptor Ben Gilbert returned from living overseas to his home town of Yackandandah in Victoria’s north east. In his search to find somewhere to live, he stumbled across a 100 year old abandoned sawmill. It was technically industrially zoned, but Ben somehow managed to convince the council that this sawmill needed a residential structure - a caretaker’s cottage.
Who better to help build this one bedroom living quarters than his brother and architect Chris, who agreed to Ben’s most unusual brief - to do things as differently as possible and on a budget of just $200,000.
Together they came up with an extraordinary, off the wall design crammed full of innovation. Only 100 square metres, it will cantilever over the edge of an old dam. The walls will be made of 1 tonne blocks of recycled concrete. Big components of the house will move like part of a fully operable roof, sliding the entire length of the house to allow in more sun, and a bedroom wall that will open to create one large space. Finally the entire place will be decked from floor to ceiling in timber sourced from the local Yackandadah forest.
With the design locked in, the plan is to build it themselves. Every last piece, down to the smallest hardware will be created by hand. It all sounds like the perfect building environment - one where Ben, as the sculptor can learn precision building from architect Chris, and one where Chris can attempt a looser, more organic approach.
The result however is not so perfect. Scantly detailed plans lead to a high risk ‘on the fly’ approach. As they challenge every concept of residential living, changing plans and redesigning as they go, finding the common ground between architect, builder and client becomes further and further away.
There are too few plans and increasingly different ideas. But at some point, someone is going to have to make hard decisions. Chris is the architect, but it’s Bens house….so who will have the final say?
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Learn how you can replicate some of their building and design ideas with this expert advice.
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