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Sawmill House

This is a house which gently encourages its inhabitants to be gregarious without robbing them of the joy of solitude. Its open plan and flexible nature enables internal spaces to be joined or separated by a series of operable walls. Internal and external boundaries are blurred as entire walls and roofs peel back to welcome sunlight, nature and the sky.

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-02-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

  • Sawmill House offers a wonderful synergy between rusticity and resolution, raw materials and bespoke detailing. Having fulfilled its potential as a bachelor pad (with the birth of its youngest occupant), the project turned its back on conventional solutions to become a gorgeous collaboration of architecture and craftsmanship, while elegantly inverting the indoor-outdoor, semi-industrial shed and family house paradigms.
  • Anchored by an upcycled mass of locally produced concrete blocks, Sawmill House nestles into the side of an old quarry adjacent to an historic sawmill. The adventure of the creative team’s shared childhood is contextually apparent via views to and from the house to the industrial and natural elements of its surroundings.
Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-04-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

“Archier Studio’s idea of leveraging latent assets to drive a project and the architects’ willingness to get hands-on, whether on site or in the manufacturing of smaller-scale objects, gives the studio’s work a truly authentic vigour. The splicing together of ideas of different scales, from the harnessing of massive concrete blocks to designing delicate metal fabrications to fit the hand, show the ability of a practice to create compelling spatial outcomes. With the Sawmill House, the studio has shown how practice unconstrained by typical architectural precepts can produce outcomes that delight. The architects’ willingness to immerse themselves in an idea without fear of failure, in the knowledge that the outcome may well end up a better one than expected, taps into one of the great advantages of the emerging architectural position – the ability to take risks. Archier Studio’s ability to make the most of this position makes the practice a worthy winner of the inaugural Emerging Architecture Practice award.” – Jury Citation / Australian Houses Awards / Emerging Architecture Practice

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-06-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

“Much of the delight in the Sawmill House lies in the conjunction of rawness and finesse. Clearly a labour of love, the design seems improvised according to the methods, skills and materials found on site and within its locale. Most interesting is the recycled concrete blocks that form the primary walls. With many imperfections in their texture and colour, they offer a richness and security in mass that counterpoint the delicacy of other key elements such as the timber screen. The interest in detail is towards informality: the design allows living to be carried out in a single, continuous space for sleeping, socializing and eating. The spatial interest lies in how this can be adapted according to the season, time of day and requirements of occupation. The house is effectively a verandah that can be enclosed. The design uses low-tech, albeit inventive devices, including a nine-metre sliding glass wall and similarly long timber screen and roof portion, to open up or shut down the pavilion; to moderate the environment and transform interior to garden. The screen bestows a beautiful quality of light and richness to the interior, which is complemented by brass-clad joinery and a formply ceiling. This is a welcoming space.” – Jury Citation / Australian Houses Awards / New House under 200m2

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-08-Ben-Hosking-800x1200 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

“This is a house which gently encourages its inhabitants to be gregarious without robbing them of the joy of solitude. Its open plan and flexible nature enables internal spaces to be joined or separated by a series of operable walls. Internal and external boundaries are blurred as entire walls and roofs peel back to welcome sunlight, nature and the sky.” – AIA Victorian Chapter Jury Comments. 2015 Winner / Residential Architecture / Houses (New) Award.

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-11-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

Archier Studio:

The Sawmill House uses large reclaimed one tonne blocks of reclaimed concrete which anchor it into the landscape and a dynamic active building envelope to regulate the internal environment. The dwelling is a hand crafted upgrade from an existing rather rustic, bohemian abode, befitting a regionally based sculptor.

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-14-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

Befitting a regionally based sculptor, Sawmill House is a hand crafted upgrade from his existing rather rustic bohemian abode. Working closely with the client, whom was a family member, the design developed as a conversation rather than a regimented document. Comprised of 270 one ton concrete blocks, Sawmill House explores the possibility of positively leveraging the thousands of tons of concrete that goes to waste each year.

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-17-Ben-Hosking-759x569 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

Leveraging our client’s skill set was a priority. We facilitated this with a rough plan a year prior to the start of construction, then slowly developed the design whilst physically working with the client on-site for the duration of the build. This design/build approach allowed us to move away from conventional solutions and investigate highly bespoke yet cost effective alternatives. Large sections of the roof and facade could be mechanised, entire walls of glass could pivot, courtyards could be added, custom furniture, joinery and hardware could be design and manufactured on-site in realtime. The knowledge gained through a hands on approach has been incredibly valuable to the development of our young practice.

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-22-Ben-Hosking-759x569 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

The use of the reclaimed concrete blocks is an experiment in harnessing the thousands of tonnes of concrete that goes to waste each year. Each block is a by-product of excess concrete left in trucks from one or more projects in the region, poured into rough steel troughs. We have continued to investigate leveraging industrial by-products through a design studio we run at RMIT University and have pushed the concept to include the spacial and procedural by-product elements of practice.

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-28-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

“The Sawmill House hosts our young family of three, who can now live comfortably and safely within the industrial zone. Large operable veranda, screens and doors transform the space to suit various climatic and social conditions, which is crucial to our family who must operate in a diverse and sometimes extreme climate, and direct our home through a spectrum of private retreat to communal hub. Importantly, the civic nature of the design allows the building to function as a design office with a fantastic aspect”. – Benjamin Gilbert / client

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-30-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

Each of the one-tonne concrete blocks that form the perimeter of the dwelling’s walls has a story – a bridge, a footpath, a home; and create a patchwork of colour and texture across the facades. This texture grounds the building in the site, as the layers of colour mimic the sedimentary layers of earth still exposed from the site’s former life as a gold mine before becoming the local sawmill. The untreated rough sawn macrocarpa screens reference the site’s recent history and over time as they pale to grey will settle the building into its perch on the quarry’s edge.

The house has a highly operable envelope that takes advantage of the local breeze that travels up the valley towards the house, passively cooling in the summer months with crossflow ventilation. In the cooler months sun penetration is maximised by rolling back a 14 metre section of openable roof over the deck, allowing the sun to passively heat the dwelling for most of the year.

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-31-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

Comprised of 270 one-tonne concrete blocks, the project explores the possibility of positively leveraging the thousands of tonnes of concrete that go to waste each year in the building industry.

The concrete in each block is the by-product of the many residential slabs poured in the vicinity and were produced by the local concrete yard as a method of storing waste. In celebration of this patchwork of waste, blocks were kept raw and exposed as much as possible. While perhaps not a holistic answer, it is hoped that this approach creates a house that contributes to a broader conversation surrounding concrete reuse and encourages investment and investigation into this CO2 intensive assets.

The house has a highly operable envelope that takes advantage of the local breeze that travels up the valley towards the house, passively cooling in the summer months with crossflow ventilation. In the cooler months sun penetration is maximised by rolling back a 14 metre section of openable roof over the deck, allowing the sun to passively heat the dwelling for most of the year.

Sawmill-House-By-Archier-Studio-38-Ben-Hosking-759x506 Sawmill House / Archier Studio

© Ben Hosking

Project Data:

Project name: Sawmill House
Location: 5 Back Creek Rd, Yackandandah VIC 3749, Australia
Coordinates: -36.320678, 146.840453
Type:

  • Type By Characteristic: Green & Sustainable House
  • Type By Site: Hill House, Countryside / Suburb House
  • Type By Size: Small House – (51 sqm – 200 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Steel House

Key Drivers: Quality of space, Engage with environment
Project Area: approx 130 sqm
Status: Built
Completion Year: 2014

Awards:

  • 2015 – Australian Houses Awards – Category: New House under 200m2 – Winner
  • 2015 – Australian Houses Awards – Category: Emerging Architecture Practice – Winner
  • 2015 – Australian Houses Awards – Category: Sustainability – Commendations
  • 2015 – Australian Institute of Architects Awards – Australian AIA Awards VIC Chapter – Category: Residential Architecture > House (New) – Winner
  • 2015 – Australian Institute of Architects Awards – Australian AIA Awards VIC Chapter – Category: Sustainable Architecture – Commendation

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Benjamin Gilbert / Agency of Sculpture
Architects: Archier Studio – 1 Fink St, Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3072
Project Team:

  • Project Architect: Chris Haddad
  • Lead Designer: Chris Gilbert
  • Designer: Josh FitzGerald
  • Builder: Benjamin Gilbert / Agency of Sculpture

Text Description: © Courtesy of Archier Studio, Australian Houses Awards, Australian Institute of Architects Awards
Images: © Archier Studio, Ben Hosking

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