Two houses in Australia: Shearers Quarters and Fairhaven House
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Two houses in Australia: Shearers Quarters and Fairhaven House

John Wardle Architects

Two houses in Australia: Shearers Quarters and Fairhaven House
By John Wardle Architects -

With these residential projects, John Wardle Architects engage with the vast Australian landscape. Shearers Quarters is a rural retreat; Fairhaven Beach House, as its name suggests, overlooks the sea. Both take their cue for volumes and apertures from context and orientation. Likewise, interior spatial distribution flows from an understanding of the best solution for everyday living requirements.
In his use of locally sourced materials, essential archaic forms and simple energy- and environment-sparing technologies, John Wardle is very much in line with other great Australian architects like Glenn Murcutt and Sean Godsell, espousing a fundamental belief that the natural context should guide the manmade concept.Nor is it just a matter of nature serving as a pleasing backdrop to a project. Wardle’s work is intimately bound up with respect for the natural environment, in the same way a farmer feels close to his land. Design concepts start from a sense of locality, an awareness of how the sun moves across a particular spot and where the prevailing winds come from. It is a practice that harks back to craftsmanship of old when builders had a deep knowledge of their terrain and how best to make use of it. The Shearers Quarters is located on a working sheep farm started by one Captain James Kelly in 1840. The new building stands on the site of the former shearing shed, hence its name and frugal design. It sits as a companion to the existing historic cottage and is designed to house shearers, family, friends and JWA staff on annual tree-planting weekends and retreats. Space is adaptable and flexible, meeting a variety of needs yet offering a haven for many.
The building’s architectural form and functional distribution provide a warm, welcoming, protective interior. Occupant needs have been anticipated and met using locally sourced materials.
An inset verandah creates a link between the original cottage and the entrance to the new building. Nestled in a gulley just below the approach road and shielded from the wind by dry stonewalls, this protected area with its unpolished timber floor is a sheltered place for work or relaxation.
The built volume is skewed slightly, signposting and at the same time protecting the entrance. From this point the dull grey corrugated galvanised iron exterior cladding gives way to warm timber lining the entire interior.
The wrap-around timber interior and a huge picture window dissipate the hiatus between indoors and out. The living area is both spacious and intimate at the same time, a place in which to relax, read, eat, cook, watch the sheep go by the north-facing verandah or admire the cliffs to the east and the bay to the south.
The open permeable living area juxtaposes a more intimate, protected night zone. Bedrooms offer privacy, their sheltered windows shielded from the wind.
Every solution, detail, material and object of Shearers Quarters speaks of an understanding of workaday needs and an ability to give them an appropriate place.
Fairhaven Beach House is located on the top of the ridgeline above the Great Ocean Road on the Victorian coastline. Here too, the architectural project is informed by the landscape, prevailing winds and colours of this rugged coastal site. Although at first glance a medley of different volumes, the programme is in fact grounded on a few simple rules: large glazed expanses facing sun and sea, and a plan form that wraps around an open central court, allowing all volumes to enjoy excellent views.
Like Shearers Quarters, the Fairhaven Beach House programme is one of contrasting introversion and extroversion, intimacy and openness, interiors and exteriors. Surfaces, colours materials, open or secluded spaces are again a function of the underlying concept.
A green-grey zinc outer shell envelops the entire sharp-angled building and frames the large picture windows. A timber front door opens onto warm, intimate interiors entirely lined in honey-coloured timber. From here a long narrow passageway leads to the different levels of the house and through to the living area. Three huge picture windows bring the seascape right into the room. Despite this, it remains a welcoming timber-clad retreat.
The living area flows uninterrupted into the kitchen and dining area. Looking out onto the sea and bay on one side and towards the inner court on the other, it functions as a threshold, bridging exterior and interior.
The warm wood and intimate interiors of these two residences prompt comparisons with Le Corbusier’s Cabanon. Both demonstrate that carefully pondered solutions, not sensational representation, are at the root of architectural excellence, which springs from an ability to transfer human passion to a concept and so make the link between an architectural programme and the way it will be lived.

Caterina Testa

Location: Fairhaven, Victoria, Australia
Completion Date: 2012
Gross Floor Area:
430 m2
John Wardle Architects
Design Team: John Wardle, Andrew Wong, Diego Bekinschtein, Chloe Lanser, James Juricevich, Robert Kolack
Contractor & Joiner: Spence Construction

Structures: Felicetti

Zinc Cladding Installer: HMmetalcraft
Timber Lining:
Woodform Architectural
Window Frames:
Pickering Joinery
Austral Black Granite:
CDK Stone
External Venetian Blinds:
Warema, Shadefactor

Zinc Cladding: VMZinc

North Bruny Island, Tasmania, Australia
Architect: John Wardle Architects
Design Team: John Wardle, Andrew Wong, Chloe Lanser, Jeff Arnold
Contractor: Cordwell Lane

Structures: Gandy and Roberts
Building Surveyor: Holdfast Consulting

Windows and Kitchen Joinery: Hansson’s Joinery
Corrugated Iron: Lysaght
Fireplace: Nectre Heaters
Door Hardware: Lockwood
Lighting, Timber Tray: Produzione Privata supplied by Format Furniture
Bathroom Equipment: Zucchetti supplied by Format Furniture, Caroma
Kitchen Appliances: Smeg
Electrical Fittings: Clipsal

Photography: Trevor Mein

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