An historic site retains important links to the past thanks to CplusC Architectural Workshop's sensitive design.
"Seven kilometres past the historic village of St Albans, the winding MacDonald River makes its way leisurely towards the Hawkesbury. The properties in the area have a long history, with many inhabitants directly descended from first settlers. Despite the area’s proximity to Sydney, the site remains reasonably remote, access being limited to a vehicle punt at Wiseman’s Ferry, and unsealed roads from the village of St Albans." -- CplusC Architectural Workshop
The property is 30 acres, and is bounded by properties on two sides, and the river and hills. A tiny timber cottage existed in a derelict state, virtually unseen due to the overgrowth. It was clear the position of the cottage was the natural place to build, and it was above the high flood level.
Retaining Historical Markers
The site had existing embankments to create a level site, around which the cottage and a slab hut sat. The decision was made early to work within these boundaries, and restore the site. This allowed the retention of the massive sandstone fireplace and slab hut as elements of the design.
Reuse of Found Timbers
During an early site visit CplusC Architectural Workshop chanced upon a pile of old bridge timbers -- removed from the old St Alban's Bridge. This link to the past was creatively incorporated into the final design.
Simple Gun-barrel Plan
The plan of the house is very simple. A variant of the gun-barrel plan, the structure is continuous throughout, as is the roofline and ceiling. This simple design helps to minimize costs.
The house is primarily for two, so separate bedrooms are not required. Therefore a continuous volume inside, gives a deceptive sense of space for what is a small house.
Sleeping lofts at either end enclose a deck and bathroom/laundry below at either ends. The fireplace and joinery unit divides the living area from main sleeping area, and provides storage for both. The kitchen faces this unit, and a communal dining/living area which opens to the courtyard. The small house allows for a range of sleeping configurations. Built in seating bays on the southern wall double as beds. Combined with the lofts the home can accommodate up to eight people -- perfect for a casual weekender.
The planning of the living areas was considered in conjunction with the planning of the ‘courtyard’. Great care has been taken to ensure the building steps down and connects with the ground comfortably.
Sitting Lightly on the Site
"The construction technique of the building allowed it to look and feel elevated, a built intervention within the environment. The mass of the courtyard and stone fireplace grounds the work, contrasting and enhancing the light steel framing of the awning, and the sharp edges of corrugated roofing. From the approach the elevated structure can be seen clearly, and gives the impression that the bolted connections could be undone, and it could float away." -- CplusC Architectural Workshop
The building takes advantage of the spectacular site -- opening up in all directions to frame the numerous views down the valley and to the glowing rock escarpment. Sliding bi-fold doors and windows open the living area to the courtyard, and encourage cross ventilation.
Variety of Spaces
A series of spaces are comfortable and can be used year round. The weekender creates as many places as possible to sit and enjoy the inspiring surrounds. The paved courtyard faces due north, and soaks up the winter sun. Paved capping at a comfortable seat height surrounds the courtyard, fireplace and pond. While, built-in seating in the living areas and on the front deck create yet more options for relaxing and watching the world drift by.
The materials chosen were informed by the acquisition of the bridge ironbark. Galvanized steel sections welded on site were chosen to aid in the stability of the structure, its resistance to termite attack, and in connections between structural elements.
The interior materials are predominantly timber, and create a warm innately natural atmosphere. The palate of materials was expanded to include hoop pine plywood for joinery, wall and ceiling lining, Karri flooring and decking, and cedar doors and windows.
With the exception of the flooring, all elements were pre-fabricated to aid in erection and possible disassembly. Clear finish oils were used throughout, which showcases the timbers characteristics and allows for a graceful aging process.
Considered lighting was critical to stressing the natural beauty of these materials. All timbers except for the cedar are Australian, and are either recycled, plantation or from managed forests.
St Albans House
The star of the show is undoubtedly the natural surrounds. But that hasn't stopped CplusC Architectural Workshop finessing the building to create a comfortable, inviting and generous space.
Traditional materials of rural Australia have been used in conjunction with modern building techniques and systems to create a contemporary weekender, with an awareness of its environment, history and place.