- Southern Highlands
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House in the Southern Highlands
Glenn Murcutt has adopted corrugated sheet as one of his star materials. Flexible, economical and light, it was used in colonial Australia both as roofing material for noble houses and cladding for barns. Today, supported on metal structures, frequently very elaborate ones, this material enables him to construct buildings in isolated areas for clients seeking an intimate contact with nature.
The vast dwelling he completed south of Sydney resembles a long silver line, drawn on the countryside. On the south side, the windowless corrugated-sheet shield covers a gallery that protects and connects a large living-area wing, a small courtyard and a barn.
Façade and roof blend here into a single metal surface with a curved and tilted profile that 'recalls [the profile] of trees growing against the wind', Murcutt explains. The gap under the gutter running along the bottom edge of this long shield makes it seem to float above the ground, reinforcing its enigmatic appearance.
On the other side, on the contrary, the dwelling is anchored to the ground by its slate-lined plinth, like a balcony overlooking the countryside. The north façade, protected from the vertical summer sun by a thin sheet awning, is richer in visual content and varies with the use of each part, offering a strong counterpoint between the mobility and porosity of its wooden shutters and the solid, massive character of its plain concrete pillars.
The solar panels covering the north side of the barn supply the household´s electricity. The house has rainwater tanks connected to the roof gutters, which provide a 200,000 litre storage capacity for use in the event of forest fires.
The rooms, with a constant depth of 12 meters and a height of 4.6 metres to the ridge beam, form a row of repetitive 2.3-metre modules, based on the width of the bathrooms.
The children´s area and the parents´ room, located at each end, are connected by the common spaces, placed in the centre and extended sideways by the terrace. On entering the house through one of its double doors, the 70-meter interior gallery - main distribution axis, serving also as the house thermal regulation volume - offers an impressive view.
The roof of the gallery consists of a continuous glazed strip, protected from the summer sun by the prolongation of its metal shield, which allows light to enter from the side, creating a restful atmosphere. The interior surface of the shield, free of any decoration, attains a degree of abstraction. The projection of the sun on its uniform surface transforms the space into a kind of sundial, or into a drum when beaten by the rain: the architectural shape captures the natural cycles and phenomena on which its design is based and brings them back into the dwelling.
Text: Françoise Fromonot