SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

 

The sculptor awakens at first light and enjoys the light breeze that sweeps in from the open courtyard. Through a succession of pivot doors all slightly ajar, glints of patinated brass shimmer against a timber-draped room. Nature is always within reach as the walls are malleable, moveable and permeable to the outdoors. Sawmill House by is the sanctuary of sculptor and his family. Located on a former sawmill and gold mine in Yackandandah, Victoria, this house appears grounded and firmly rooted in the earth yet surprisingly dynamic and delicate. It comprises of 270 concrete blocks and is an exemplar of how perceived waste materials can be used to create efficient and strikingly beautiful buildings.

Archier, a Hobart-Melbourne-based collective is made up of three talented young guys Josh Fitzgerald, Chris Haddad and Chris Gilbert. If you’ve been living under a concrete block for the past year you may have missed the sweet haul of awards that they received for Sawmill House. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that they’re old hands at this, however Sawmill is the knock-out project that put them on the map – and thank goodness for that. Architect and client’s brother, Chris Gilbert explains that “the amount of learning that occurred by designing and building the house… was very steep and very valuable.”

 

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

 

Faced with an ever-shifting brief and a “beautifully erratic” client, the architects decided that simplicity was key. The kitchen is the central element that can be exposed to the elements while the bedroom and discreet bathroom tucked behind it are located to the east, taking advantage of the morning light. They worked with minimal documentation and let the design evolve as a conversation” which meant that the client and architects were very hands on during the construction process. Gilbert explains that “the client’s skill set allowed [them] to fabricate all of the steel work on site and having a close relationship to the engineer meant [they] had the freedom and flexibility to develop the design and make changes on the fly.”

With the urge to be outdoors as much as possible, the architects ensured that the building envelop was adaptive and could shift at the whim of the client. A nine meter long timber clad sliding door completely opens the main living space transforming the interior into a giant deck with breathtaking views to the north. This flexible planning is continued with the use of pivot doors to the bedroom and another large pivot door from the bedroom to the courtyard. These gateways allow the whole space to be opened up into a continuous volume.

 

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

SawMill House by Archier Studio // Yackandandah, Regional Victoria | Yellowtrace

 

As keen makers, the architects and client custom built the furniture and interiors for the project “from the couches, the lighting components, all the way through to the joinery. Each element was designed in real time and mostly used materials Ben had available in his workshop (the old converted Sawmill).” The stoic bathroom sink is a great example of this ‘on the fly’ ingenuity. Perched among the ferns, this sink is made from leftover copper sheeting that the client learned to braze and form himself. The glowing brass wall that extends the length of the dwelling is something very special. Housing the kitchen and storage, there are also harmonious moments within each of the timber-lined niches. Wonderfully glowing and uniquely textured, the brass references the site’s history as gold mine.

There are personal touches throughout and ultimately involved the whole community. The timber and concrete blocks were all sourced locally and relied on working with experts and craftsmen in the area to make it all come together. Interestingly, the unprecedented process of building a house with concrete blocks (usually a waste by product) sparked local discussion about alternative design and building materials. The local concrete yard is now manufacturing concrete blocks for commercial sale – a welcomed up-cycling of this carbon intensive material.

The collaborative and hands-on approach to Sawmill House has produced a home that is altogether poetic, functional and unique. There is an admirable honesty of materials and a concerted push to capitalise on ‘waste’ materials to explore processes beyond their traditional use. Archier have used the house as a tool to learn from and have certainly surpassed expectations. Clearly an unstoppable force, we look forward to more incredible work as we simply can’t get enough!

 


[Images courtesy of .]

 

About The Author

Fenina Acance

Architecting away in Melbourne, Fenina is a shameless fashion, art and design fanatic who loves defying the relentless Melbournian uniform of black on black on black. Often spotted strutting a boisterous mix of pattern and colour, her eclectic love for the bold, raw and textured fuels her passion for design and contemporary art. When not indulging in Cy Twombly’s sensitive scribbles or Serra’s evocative sculptural forms, her love for everything Italian consumes the rest of her time. Whether it’s the language, design or food (especially food), Fenina is obsessed!

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