for the boat-shaped plan of this autonomous house at Strath Creek, in
bushland north of Melbourne, was the film Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog.
The movie depicts a large riverboat being dragged out of a river in
South America and hauled over a hill, in order that it could be launched
on to another river, so that rubber could then be transported and sold,
so that the owner of the boat could build an opera house in the jungle,
so that Caruso would come one day and sing in it!
Simon first visited the site, he was intrigued by the steeply rolling
landscape which resembled waves, and remembered a poster advertising
the film. He imagined the house as a boat with its 'prow' visible at
the top of the slope rising from the creek. The idea became convincing
when the orientation of the house was considered - it would allow a
long wall of glass to face north to receive sun in winter, and a front
door to be placed at the 'stern' of the house where visitors would arrive.
challenge for the architect was the owners' wish to use rammed earth,
a material which does not lend itself easily to the curves of a boat!
It was time for an additional concept - to shape the rooms like shipping
containers, and to marry these two concepts together with give-and-take;
a bit like two mature-age lovers getting together and negotiating a
relationship, which just happened to be the story of the owners themselves.
Sometimes architecture can respond to unexpected things!
the house is half-boat, half-container and manages to incorporate many
curves, especially in the roof.
the roof shaped like a wave? Well, not intentionally, but it is interesting
how ideas multiply when you are having fun with design. In this case
the roof shape was formed while a model of the house was being constructed
by assistant Mirjana Lozanovska.
result is a house which sits well in its bush setting, showing that
successful response to context can be achieved by circuitous means.
the film the boat is smashed to pieces on rapids as the crew sleep off
a drunken celebration. But the house is still sitting firmly on its