- Article by Natalie Mortimer
Jessica de Rome of de Rome Architects takes AR on the design journey for Carwoola house, a reinvention and relocation of an original dwelling that was destroyed in a 2017 bushfire.
The Carwoola house is located on a 13.37-hectare block in a rural bush setting. The previous dwelling on the site was destroyed in the 2017 Carwoola bushfire. The form and materiality of the new house has been reinvented and its location re-sited to redefine the experience and outlook of the site. The site is densely wooded and slopes up from the north-west.
There are views to surrounding hills to the north, and flat plains to the south. The original dwelling was located on a bushy western slope in a vulnerable position to fire. The new dwelling is sited in a clearing higher up on the site – free from fuel-load, but more isolated and exposed.
The building form responds to this condition by being intentionally strong and robust. The main material is brick, which creates a non- combustible building envelope and anchors into the open, rocky landscape. At the same time, the form is carefully sculpted to create spaces, voids and openings.
At the south a vertical opening in the tall brickwork forms a double-height entry. The upper level façade opens up to capture views to the south. At the north a protected external terrace is formed by a recess, which creates a brick podium, offering an elevated vantage point while sheltering from the wind.
Double brick walls run from outside to inside to accentuate the structure and materiality of the building. The brick material is experienced externally via its sculpted definition of building form, while internally the brick is experienced as a rich texture and defining boundary to the space. A tall brick chimney and fireplace carves through the middle of the living space to further enmesh the brick materiality with the experience of the space.
Programmatically, the house consists of a short circulation spine linking the entry and stairs. The spine is intersected by the bedroom wing to the east, and the open living areas to the west. A master bedroom wing at the far west bookends the lower level. The strong brick form encloses both bedroom wings, while the living areas open up with full-width glazing bound by the brick blade walls.
The glazed living areas connect to the terrace and landscape beyond. Internally, polished concrete floors and white textured finishes complement the light, textured palette.
AR: How did the Carwoola house project come to you and how did it evolve?
Jessica de Rome: The project came to me via a recommendation from a builder. I initially met with the clients and we established a rapport and, from there, developed a shared vision for the project.
Tell us about the brief and what it involved.
The previous dwelling on the block burnt down in a bushfire, so the brief required a complete relocation of the dwelling, and for it to be fire and termite resistant. Three bedrooms were required, as well as an upstairs guest bedroom wing and studio to capture additional views. Living areas were to be communal and open to the view, while protected from harsh winds.
What was the inspiration for this project?
The inspiration emerged from the siting and landscape, and exploring how form interacted with this. We wanted to use simple building materials and techniques to create a strong expressive form.
How did you make your material choices?
A rugged, robust brick materiality emerged in response to the rocky hill landscape, and bushfire protection. The brick materiality was softened through sculpting of the form to create spaces. Brick also forms an internal backdrop via brick walls that run from outside to in, and by a honed brick fireplace, which pierces through the living space.
How involved was the client throughout the design process?
The client was incredibly trusting of the architectural process. They were excellent in providing valid direction and decisions, and shared the vision for the project. They didn’t weigh the process down with any requests outside of the original vision, and hence trusted decisions we made to be in keeping with this, and for the benefit of the project.
What were the biggest challenges and how were they resolved?
There were some technical challenges, such as providing a steel- framed house that was termite resistant, while also dealing with the thermal bridging this creates. We were able to create an effective thermal envelope to navigate the steel frames and double brick walls.
What is your favourite element of Carwoola house?
My favourite part is how the brick materiality came together.
How do you feel about the completed project?
It’s really great to see how the house sits in the landscape. The varied light creates changing tones and shadows on the brickwork, and the backdrop scenery is stunning and ever-changing as the bush regenerates from the bushfire.
Photography by Light Studies Photography