Fern Tree House: Designed Without a Time Scale

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
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Fern Tree House
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Built as part of Hobart’s post-fire reconstruction boom in the late 1960s, Fern Tree House responds not only to the client’s present needs but also to future priorities.

It was Fern Tree House designed by McGlashan and Everist (now known simply as McGlashan Everist), an award-winning architecture practice based in Melbourne and Geelong. McGlashan Everist’s most renowned work, Heide II -now part of the Heide Museum of Modern Art – complements the Fern Tree House project.

Fern Tree House, as with most of McGlashan Everist’s residential projects, is a low-spread house stepping down a steep piece of land with large expanses of fixed glass. Though the house was designed in 1968 and built in 1969, it looks as contemporary as ever.

“We tried to design houses that were without a time scale,” said architect Neil Everist.

Fern Tree House

Simple concrete bricks and timber are the main materials use in this house.

The house is located on a sloping site close to the oldest part of Hobart, in Tasmania. The original house on the site burned down in the Black Tuesday bush fires of February 1967. The owners of the site, the Canning family, used the disaster as a springboard for a new project. They hired David McGlashan of McGlashan and Everist to design the current house.

Fern Tree House

The kitchen area is the heart of the house.

The heart of the house is the kitchen, which is defined by a beam structure and connected to an informal dining area. The living room is half a level lower than the kitchen and dining room and has a fireplace that warms the house in the colder months.

Each of the four bedrooms overlooks a different garden, offering privacy and creating a unique connection between each room of the house and the surrounding wilderness.

Fern Tree House

The living area connected to the gardens and outside pools.

One of the main attributes of the house, emphasized by its owners, is the building’s flexibility and ability to adapt to its inhabitants’ changing needs. The house can work for large extended family groups but is equally suitable for a small family.

As the house was built during a post-fire reconstruction boom, materials were hard to come by in Hobart. Simple concrete bricks and timber were chosen for their economy but used in a way that evokes opulence. The reflecting pools outside the living area were added to the house more than two decades later, reinforcing the connection between the inside and outside.

Fern Tree House Floor Plan

The original floor plans designed by David McGlashan (1968).

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