More than four hours west of Sydney, overlooking the Megalong Valley from a site with breathtaking views, the Invisible House by Peter Stutchbury Architecture blends subtly into the landscape.
The house was recently recognized with awards for House of the Year and New House over 200 square metres by the 2014 Houses Awards.
Citing the home’s harmony with its location in a spectacular setting, the jury noted that it’s an “absolutely Australian” project in its “modesty, clarity, resourcefulness and consequential delight.” The forms used in this rural retreat emulate the surroundings: the roof slab’s undulating curves recall the surrounding hills, while rusty steel boxes bring to mind old farm equipment.
The 75-hectare site offered numerous potential sites, the architects noted, and demanded exhaustive review. Yet after considering four different sites over a full three days, they ended up “selecting a place the ‘farmer’ of the land had chosen two decades earlier."
Situated on the western edge of the mountains, looking out toward thousands of kilometres of desert, the house must cope with harsh conditions: blasting hot winds from the west, along with frigid winds from up the valley, not to mention the blazing sun. A local builder completed the project over a period of three years.
The design integrates smoothly with the surrounding landscape, with the home tucked into the hillside beneath the brow of the hill, and helps to protect the occupants from the weather. The jury noted that “the form, materials and details are mastered in this house, running from inside to out and then into the landscape as one.” For example, the roof is designed to hold water in puddles before releasing it into troughs and then into the surrounding landscape.
The materials chosen — local stone with concrete and wood — combined with design detailing that is “pared back yet crafted” help the distinct spaces maintain a cohesive feel. Contrasting elements maintain balance, such as open spaces balanced with enclosed, horizontal parts with vertical, and long elements paired with short.
Calling out the variety of spaces contained in a relatively small footprint, the jury was taken with both the designers’ restraint and the project’s resulting cohesiveness. “Doing neither too much nor too little has resulted in a new house that feels as though it were always part of this timeless landscape.”
Originally designed for a Sydney filmmaker and artist in search of a rural retreat, the Invisible House is now available for lodging. The jury noted that the “elegant building, looking out from its position nestled into the hilltop, has left us drawn to see more.”