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Tree Top Studio

The architect Max Pritchard created a personal studio for his practice in Australia with an interesting timber structure. The two-level timber tower is a mere four metres in diameter, but it serves its purpose well. Nestled in amongst the treetops it is accessible from the house by a timber walkway and is striking for its rationalised simplicity and bold sculptural form.

Tree-Top-Studio-By-Max-Pritchard-Architect-02-Sam-Noonan-800x1200 Tree Top Studio / Max Pritchard Architect

© Sam Noonan

“Eventually I just thought it’s a lovely little structure and I’m going to have to finish it,” says Pritchard. “And it will function as my own private home office.”

Tree-Top-Studio-By-Max-Pritchard-Architect-03-Sam-Noonan-800x1200 Tree Top Studio / Max Pritchard Architect

© Sam Noonan

“We are less than an hour out of Adelaide, where the foothills that ring the city meet the coast and the suburban streets come to an abrupt end as they hit a wall of dark, glacial rock. At this intersection, on a site overlooking the vast Gulf St Vincent, stand the home and new studio of Max Pritchard, one of Australia’s most interesting architects.”

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© Sam Noonan

Some 25 years separate the completion of the house, a linear steel-framed glass box perched on steel pilotis, and the studio, a timber construction that stands amid blue gums and acacias. The studio’s structure is simple yet sculptural: cylindrical, 6m tall, 4m in diameter, and topped with a roof that shades the workspace from the sun during the hottest parts of the day.

Tree-Top-Studio-By-Max-Pritchard-Architect-07-Sam-Noonan-759x506 Tree Top Studio / Max Pritchard Architect

© Sam Noonan

Ground level is a storage area. Above is a studio lined with bookshelves and fitted with breezy windows that offer views of the sea. The building brings together three key elements of Pritchard’s work: sculptural fair, affordability and expressed structure. ‘The radiating battens on the ceiling reflect the building.

Tree-Top-Studio-By-Max-Pritchard-Architect-08-Sam-Noonan-800x1200 Tree Top Studio / Max Pritchard Architect

© Sam Noonan

You’re seeing the whole structure,’ he says. ‘I like circles, the pure form,’ he adds. ‘It suits the function of a simple, contained office. But then a lot of sweat went into it, so I might be biased.’ Biased maybe, but it does work. And the pleasing news is, Pritchard is using his new studio. ‘I’ve done a few designs there – good ones,” Max Pritchard says.

Tree-Top-Studio-By-Max-Pritchard-Architect-12-Sam-Noonan-800x1200 Tree Top Studio / Max Pritchard Architect

© Sam Noonan

In the face of heavily wooded sloping sites, his preferred strategy is to establish a small footprint of perhaps six by six metres and to arrange the functions over several levels, regularly employing mezzanines to link spaces vertically. These vertical houses are often approached at a mid level via a pedestrian bridge, a device first used in the Pritchard House. This creates a singular, almost cinematic approach to each building, with a very clear sense that you have arrived at the house before you have officially entered it.

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© Sam Noonan

Max Pritchard Architect:

Rather than undertake a difficult addition to a heritage listed, iconic 25 year old elevated steel and glass house, Max chose to build a separate structure for his own studio.

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© Sam Noonan

This garden structure is a two level circular tower wrapped in golden plywood sheeting, with hardwood battens covering sheet joints and expressing the timber frame structure of vertical wall studs and radiating roof beams.

Tree-Top-Studio-By-Max-Pritchard-Architect-16-Sam-Noonan-759x506 Tree Top Studio / Max Pritchard Architect

© Sam Noonan

The dynamics of the structural expression is carried through to the interior, by repeating the detail of pine plywood and hardwood battens. Views of the tree tops and the sea beyond enhance a vibrant yet peaceful space.

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© Sam Noonan

The slope of the land allows access to the studio via a timber decked bridge, with a curved timber decked path leading to the house.

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© Sam Noonan

Working on the principal that designers should be able to build their creations, Max undertook all construction himself (except for electrical) including designing and building the circular table.

Tree-Top-Studio-By-Max-Pritchard-Architect-21-Sam-Noonan-759x355 Tree Top Studio / Max Pritchard Architect

© Sam Noonan

Project Data:

Project name: Tree Top Studio
Location: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Coordinates: n/a

  • Type By Characteristic: Architects House, Studio / Office : House, Tree House, Tower House
  • Type By Site: Forest House
  • Type By Size: Tiny House – (less than 51 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Wooden House

Project Area: 25 sqm
Status: Completed
Completion Year: 2014


  • 2015 – Wallpaper Magazine Design Awards – best of the rest – Best Home Office – Winner
  • 2014 – Australian Institute of Architects Awards – SA Architecture Awards – Category: Small Projects Architecture – Commendations

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Max Pritchard
Architects: Max Pritchard Architect – 2 Chapel St, Glenelg SA 5045, Australia
Builder: Max Pritchard
Engineer: Pocius and Associates
Text Description: © Courtesy of Max Pritchard Architect, wallpaper
Images: © Max Pritchard Architect, Sam Noonan

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Tree Top Studio / Max Pritchard Architect
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