A black concrete building that emerges from a hillside in the Byron Bay hinterland, Federal House is a minimalist home designed by the Melbourne-based architecture studio, Edition Office.
Located in the village of Federal, NSW, the single-storey house is designed to enable an experiential relationship with its rural surrounds while “remaining consciously aware of its outsider and temporal status within the deep timelines of that landscape”, according to the studio.
Experimenting with light and form, the hilltop home stands out for its stark monochrome appearance and simple truss framed roof. The black-pigmented concrete mass firmly anchors the structure to the ground, while a screen of 200mm black timber battens somewhat deconstructs the solidity of the house even as it shelters the living spaces from the western sun.
Borrowing from the typology of settler colonial homesteads with their familiar verandahs, the living spaces and a cloister fern garden in the inner courtyard of the home are wrapped by a covered outdoor living space. Beneath the upper platform is a subterranean pool linked to the garden void in the heart of the home.
“The deep verandah space allows for a shadow gradient to emerge between inner and outer thresholds, enhancing the sense of sanctuary from the surrounds and its variable weather conditions,” the architects explained.
Though located in a sub-tropical climate region, the house doesn’t have air-conditioning, instead using cross-flow ventilation through large bays of louvre windows to naturally cool all interior spaces.
“Warm air flowing through the sheltered pool is cooled through heat transfer across the shaded body of water. This cooled air then flows up through the cloister fern garden and naturally ventilates and cools the lounge and living spaces of the home,” the architects said.
Even ceiling fans are hardly used during the hotter periods, with the house shielded from the hot western sun by the timber batten screen.
Designed as a sanctuary for its owners, the house displays restraint both in size as well as finishes. The materials palette was selected on the basis of properties such as tactility, minimal maintenance and longevity.
Featuring extra thick 190mm stud walls, the home combines a heavily insulated building envelope and thermally broken windows and doors with high performance glass to limit heating requirements to a small open fireplace in winter.
A 60,000-litre tank collects rainwater for use in the home while all wastewater is treated on site using an aerated wastewater treatment system. Infrastructure has also been installed to utilise a PV solar array on the planned storage shed.
Photography: Ben Hosking