The High Country House is a modern hilltop homestead designed that blends rural life and the distinctive culture of the country town of Armidale.
The house, designed by Sydney based Luigi Roselli Architects, is situated at the peak of a cattle property in Armidale, a country town with a university and a number of cultural institutions in the Northern Tablelands in New South Wales.
Like many other rural homes, the project had to be self-sufficient because of its remoteness from local water supply, power and sewer systems. The house features large water tanks placed under it and passive solar design principles help to reduce the need for heating and cooling. In addition, the building has on-site sewer and power management.
“The 1000 metres of altitude are felt outside with cold winter fog covering the valley, whilst inside the house is a refuge enhanced by strongly integrated passive solar design principles. The sheds and barns are located remotely,” the architects explained.
Outside the house, a corrugated Colorbond steel skirt and exposed concrete cantilevered slabs support an economical timber frame and lightweight truss framed roofing. The walls are clad in “log cabin” vertical weatherboards. The solid base of cantilevered concrete slabs, the concrete retaining walls and the water tanks provide large thermal mass to balance the high thermal amplitude that is typical to this remote area.
Preserving the natural landscape, the green slopes of the hill continue all the way up under the concrete platform, where the slab and the corrugated steel skirt under it protect against grass fires.
The lightly sloping corrugated iron roof is reminiscent of the surrounding hills, and the hidden gutters keep the façade uncluttered. Double glazing and external blinds protect the main windows.
The home’s interior is separated into three simple articulated “sheds” that form the distinct wings of the home. The central wing features the social area, including the living room an integrated open kitchen and the dining area. This area offers optimal south-facing views over the valley.
The living room offers a panoramic view of the valley below, while 50,000 litres of rainwater are stored within its base.
The west wing holds the service area, which includes the garage, the laundry and the guest room, which is located next to a gym and a studio. The guest room faces west to capture the last light of day.
The east wing holds the private area, including the master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and a private sitting area. This area was orientated to capture the first light of dawn. A large elevated terrace connects the social area with the private one, capturing the warmth of the winter sun and allowing natural light to flow into the living areas.
The wooden floors and interior timber panelling are a reminiscent of the external materials and natural surrounding landscapes. Nooks and varied ceiling levels to the wings’ links provide perfect backdrops and create focal points for artwork and sculptures.
“The interiors are an urbane and cultured refuge to a collection of art and indigenous artefacts collected in Africa and Asia. There is no place for whips, saddles and country style clichés,” the architects said.