The clients of Tasmanian architect Misho Vasiljevich – a couple in their 70s – had a clear view of how they wanted to live now and into the future.
On a former apple farm, cut into a slight slope and under a curved roof, sits a long, silver box. Inside are treasures – visible and hidden. The visible artifacts are an indication of the clients’ diverse interests and travels. Hidden away is the clever and cost- saving technology that makes this house withstand icy winters and a bitter wind; or conversely, hot windy summers with little rain. The cold is one thing in this valley; the most significant element from which to shelter is the wind.
This silver box has two faces. One affords views down a long wind-swept valley; the other protects delicate endemic flora and vegetables, and provides a warm haven for morning cups of tea.
The clients, now in their seventies, had a clear vision of what they wanted. They approached local architect Misho Vasiljevich with a confidence that comes from having worked with architects on their two previous homes in South Australia.
Both clients are scientists, and although retired still pursue their respective disciplines. Jenny is a botanist and needed both light and dark spaces to house her large collections of books, specimens, seed jewellery and brassware. Her study comprises a long and
wide workbench on which are laid out plant samples, shells, fossils, notes, photographs, a computer and a microscope. She is currently mapping the endemic flora of the Huon Valley. It is no accident she can gaze down the valley while she identifies species collected from these environs.
Keith’s study is smaller, but no less important. It is situated toward the beautiful view, but it also nestles into the kitchen where he cooks with passion. The centre of the main living space is a large stone bench. It is the communal work surface for activities such as making preserves, laying out maps, drying plants or preparing produce for storage from local farmers’ markets.
At the northern end of the house are the bedrooms – hers has a contained view, behind a blade, of delicate endemic species and ferns. A higher gap in the blade, and over a low, thin gabion wall, provides a vista of Mt Wellington and the Sleeping Beauty. This gap also allows in the warming, morning winter sun.
His bedroom looks out onto the valley. From a wide “afternoon- nap shelf” he can identify birds, watch the wind swirl the eucalypts, and follow the clouds as they race across the Tasmanian sky. The feeling in this room is one of being “submerged” in the atmosphere of the valley – of floating over and down into the river at the bottom. Adjoining the bedrooms are their separate bathrooms: she likes to bathe while he again is cognisant of his (perhaps) eventual need to shower while seated in a chair.
Vasiljevich has years of experience designing hangars and air terminals and is fascinated by the “architecture” of planes. On this site the wind tears around the south-western end of the building and would create damaging turbulence down the face of the northern wall. To alleviate this possibility, the roof extends outward on this corner to replicate an aerodynamic wingtip.
The resulting courtyard space on the north is wind-free and warm. This is assisted by the six Corten blades, which provide shelter, privacy from the road above and generate small garden microclimates. They are a textured and coloured counterpoint to the dark grey of the corrugated roof, the pale-silver of the aluminum door and window frames and the Mini Orb interior lining. Complementing the rusty tones of the Corten (slowly being emblazoned with the encouraged droppings from wrens) is the locally sourced crushed brick surfacing of the courtyard.
This is a house of easy and intelligent pleasure. The terrazzo floor is cool and inviting underfoot in summer and warmed in winter, and there are many comfortable nooks for reading. Yet one’s eye is always pulled to the view – the borrowed landscape of valley cleft, native trees, dam and hills. The house is future-proofed through an understanding of needs as the clients age. Enjoying the external environment from the inside is a pleasure the clients can enjoy irrespective of their changing mobility. One gets the impression this silver box filled with treasures may be the elixir of life for these clients, as it is such a delightful space in which to simply live.
Passive solar design is achieved through the installation of 200 mm-thick polystyrene under the concrete slab as a thermal barrier to the ground. Hydronic underfloor heating has been installed in the hallway and main living areas, but not in less-used areas such as the larder and laundry. Thermally-broken AWS aluminium double-glazed doors and double-glazed argon-filled Velux windows have been used with 2400 mm eaves to the northern elevation. Timber infill separation of the aluminum windows from the concrete provides a secondary thermal barrier.
The building is oriented to gather as much northern and eastern sun as possible, and to shield from the wind. For example, on a winter’s day the window seat on the southern side can be warmed by the sun. The Huon Valley wind blasts the southern face but this side offers the best view. The windows are set so that views can be had through the house while the clients are enjoying sun on the northern side.
Greenland Systems evacuated solar tube hot water. Solar hot water monitors and heat sensors throughout house.
3 x 10,000-litre tanks – all water is taken off the adjoining shed roof. The (deliberate) use of lead lining around the windows on the main house precludes the use of this water for drinking; however, this rainwater is collected in a small dam and filtered using native plant species. Lead levels have been shown to be very low, and the dam supports a wide variety of wildlife.
An Envirocycle® system treats grey and black water for watering an area of newly planted endemic plant species. High star rating washing machine (front loading) and appliances; “Smart” 3/4-L toilets throughout.
Six Corten blades on the northern side create micro-climates for planting and exclude the wind, which reduces watering needs.
Polished and sealed concrete containing hand-spread terrazzo/marble chips. Structural steel frame kept the thickness of the structure to a minimum.
Galvanised 0.8 mm metal roofing – three times the thickness of Colorbond which means it holds its curved shape better in fires. Plantation grown hardwood stud and timber frames. Plantation grown Tasmanian oak lining.
Mini-Orb lining. Brightgreen LED lights throughout.
Insulation exceeds R9.