(DA 2011)
(Construction 2011-2012)

Atop a valley, on a former apple farm, sits a long silver box. The position affords glorious views down the long valley, but is exposed to wind all year. Yet, the southerly wind flows over the curved, galvanized metal roof without turbulence; large, thermally broken double glazed windows provide framed views and; six tall Corten blades shelter the northern face, provide privacy from the road above and microclimatally foster small gardens.

The Story

The Crabtree house clients moved from South Australia to escape its increasing heat. What they didn’t consider when they bought a piece of hillside in the Huon Valley was the year-round wind. What offset the wind, however, were the views down the valley to the hills opposite. The act of shielding from the wind yet opening the length of the house to the vista became the architectural imperative. Misho Vasiljevich had built a house on the far side of the valley. After spending time in it, the clients were convinced he could address that imperative.

The clients also came with specific requirements, generated in part from having worked with architects on two previous homes. Jenny is a retired scientist and is currently mapping the Huon Valley’s endemic plant species. To this end she needed a study, with darkened storage space. She is also a skilled propagator and gardener, and part of her brief was for spaces in which she could grow endemic species and food plants. Areas of their land are being re-vegetated with endemic shrubs and trees; an Envirocycle system treats grey and black water for irrigating these zones. All water is harvested into three 10,000 L tanks; any overflow fills a small dam, home to many frogs.

Keith, also a retired scientist, has a small study space; however, his passion is cooking and the generous stone kitchen bench, and walk-in larder were designed to suit the many environmental and culinary activities in which this couple engages. Both have travelled widely and have extensive collections, which deserve display. They are also in the sixties and seventies and cognisant this will be their last place of residence. The house is already future-proofed, with wide hallways and bathrooms for wheelchair access, and low external gutters, for easy leaf removal. The house is all on one level; however, Keith’s bedroom and Jenny’s study, at opposite ends of the house, seem to soar out over the view, as if elevated.

Away from the southern wind, on the northern lee, are six tall, curved Corten blades, which wrap sinuously along the length of the house. These are multi-purpose; yet also provide a coloured counterpoint to the silver roof, trusses and window/door frames. The blades provide privacy to rear bedrooms and bathrooms from the road above; create microclimates for growing delicate plants; shield windows from frosty air and frame views out to the north and northeast.

The materials and technology reflect the clients’ request for low maintenance and energy costs. The Hydronic underfloor heating was only laid in high-use areas, and an evacuated solar tube hot water system works efficiently, even in low solar intensity.

The imperative of shielding from the wind while opening to the view has been well met. The clients are delighted with a scheme that combines future proofing with many sustainable strategies, to produce spaces in which they can gaze inwards at their beautiful artifacts and specimens, or outwards, to the mesmerising view, while protected from the wind.