The site is a north facing small escarpment that is characterised by large a floating rock shelf, and a waterway that stems from a distant catchment and flows steadily to the inland bay two kilometres away through remnant swamplands.
The building is elemental, almost cave-like and has a horizontality that places the layers of the building as primary contours of the hillside; one safely traverses the land physically and emotionally with the house. The bold leaning façade plays poetically with both the sky and the immediate land. This is a building that unashamedly becomes one with its locale.
Historically, residential buildings are rarely questioned for their relevance; should we repeat the past and occupy a box, fill it with stuff and find solace in the computer screen? Or is this the time to revisit ancient values, values of sociability, shared care, awareness, consciousness? Can a house promote such values or is it purely the occupants?
The project is a sum of its understanding across disciplines. The initial framing of land was delivered by Peter Stutchbury Architecture and continues to be regenerated by Luke Dewing of Joshua Tree Landscapes. The structural integrity of a complex masonry insert was delivered by Richard Matheson of van der Meer Consulting, who tied the core of the building to rock strata up to 9000 mm below the surface. An elemental and restrained building has enabled a cost effective outcome on a demanding site.
Sustainability is easily misrepresented. In its purest form, the sustainability of a building stems from decisions that demonstrate a true understanding and respect for the environmental factors it will face. Siting is a significant concern – dependent upon latitude and location. Cabbage Tree House was located, and materials selected, based upon site character and solar management. Thermal mass is used to both hold and transfer heat and as a consequence the internal temperatures of the building varying only minimally, winter to summer. The building is located due north, and splayed to capture winter sun. The angled east façade was positioned to channel cool breezes entering the valley from Pittwater through the building in summer.
The clients are delighted with the outcome of this project. Never predicted was the hospitality of the building nor the level of seasonal comfort. The smaller built area along with careful and expressive finishes support the clients desire for a responsible built outcome.
Cabbage Tree House is a real investigation into raw living, a track to past habits and a shelter that is more reminiscent of cave than shed. As world values shift and the strength of awareness diminishes, Cabbage Tree House challenges what part the house plays within the current scenario of housing. The building is elaborate only in its restraint.