A Reassuring Gesture

author Sean Godsell
project House in the Hills, Barrabool, Victoria, Australia

The site was excised from a working sheep farm. It consists of 25 hectares of cleared and underworked paddocks. It slopes from its mid length highpoint to the north and south - both slopes having spectacular views. An established wind break of cyprus pines flanks the west boundary and provides a certain degree of protection from the prevailing south-westerly winds which pummel the south slope, making it a less desirable location for a new house. In this part of Australia, the southerly winds are cold. In fact, the wind fundamentally dictated the design of this building. The north (sun) facing living pavilion and adjacent courtyard are protected partly by the re-shaped landscape immediately to their south and partly by a 30m x 30m operable louvred parasol hovering over both pavilion and courtyard.
The parasol protects the house, offering both shelter from and deflection of the prevailing wind, as well as varying degrees of shade and direct sunlight, depending on the time of day and year. More importantly, the parasol acts as a place-maker, localising and defining a precinct on a large site within which the essential requirements for habitation - shelter, protection, security - can comfortably occur. Simple steel framed haysheds, roofed but open on all sides, are dotted across the Australian countryside, while their evocative silhouettes offer a romantic rationale for this Arcadian myth- house. Notions of the frontier; of survival in a never-ending battle with Nature, are close to the bone for many Australians.