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Boranup House

“If we could live on the site in a tent, we would.”

The simple statement summarizes the aspirations of a young family of four for their new house to be built on the sloping forested site – an amazing, delicate, challenging site – on which they required generous spaces for everyone and forest views for each room. Their aspirations however were faced with two substantial hurdles: the fire risk and a modest budget. The bushfire risk of the site is obviously very severe and associated regulations extremely tight, limiting both design possibilities and selection of materials, as well as substantially hindering the economy of the project, in addition to the relative remoteness of the site. As often – in the process of the office-, these constraints became the generator of the project. Conceived from the inside out, the design proposal proposes a continuous fire-resistant enveloping surface, which follows the terrain’s topography and frames views to the magnificent giant eucalyptus forest. Within the perimeter shell, a central family area overlooking the forest is surrounded by an array of rooms each framing the views in different directions. As a turtle shielding itself from danger, the outer shell protects the inner parts of the building. The economic materiality of the project can be described as an outer layer of black-painted fiber cement, and an inner layer of clear finished, warm plywood. The steel-trowelled structural slab completes the limited material palette. The deep recesses of the openings protect the house from bush-fire with the aid of gravity fed sprinklers, which form a “curtain of water” within the fibre-cement enclosure to protect all glazing. Such recesses however were also conceived to visually frame the views of the forest through a black cornice, which dims the surrounding light, contrasts with the tones of the forest and funnels the user in the trees. Seeing challenges and constraints of the site, the dichotomy between protecting from the fire and opening toward the forest, and the limitations of economy, as the generator of the design is the first fundamental move for architecture to embody the notion of sustainability, in a holistic and cultural way. In particular, within the obvious limitations, the house engages with a significant social and cultural question: how can we build in the Landscape and where do we find a balance between architecture and preservation – of self and the environment?

Boranup House

Boranup House

Wardandi, Western Australia, Private house, 200 sqm

2016

2017 Western Australia Architecture Awards: Marshall Clifton Award, Residential Architecture – Houses (New)