Most offices have nature in them, in the form of plants and green walls, but there are a special few which are positioned within nature, like SSB Design Studio’s new project located in the woods of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland.
Designed for creative agency POMO, the aptly named Bush Studio sits on a steep site under the Maroochy Plan 2000 steep land, and features easy access and views to a spectacular tree visa. The clients had already owned the land but never considered it possible to build an office on the property.
It turns out constructing a small office on the tricky site was feasible once the engineer and builders were involved in the early stages to ensure all site constraints were fully understood. However, the process was not without its difficulties.
“The challenge was to build the studio with its highest point close to 5m off the ground on steel poles, perched in the tree tops and surrounded by natural bush with a view over a steep valley,” says Simon Scott, design principal at SSB.
As the site was untouched for years and covered by gum trees, it was important that as much vegetation as possible was retained. No trees were cut down for the now completed studio, while a 40 year old gum tree provides the office with a natural canopy, keeping internal spaces cool and preventing direct sunlight from hitting the spaces.
According to Scott, the client was advised to use timber floor construction with steel posts as the preferred method for the raised studio and external timber deck floor over the steep slope. These steel stumps and timber floor framing are concealed by the studio’s exterior walls, made of James Hardie lightweight FC cladding.
However, budget constraints meant that the recommended Ritek roof – a lightweight sandwich construction panel with large spans which, without the structural roof rafters, would have reduced structural and labour costs – had to make way for a traditional roof build. Instead, the team specified a low-pitch, light coloured metal Colorbond and the smallest timber beam sizes as possible with an intermediate beam placed at the centre.
The roof showing the exposed rafters over the deck, as well as internally to give a structural feel, was well received by the clients. Having large glazed sliding doors and corner glazing on the north side of the building also allowed the roof to fall to the bush without a gutter – a idea Scott explains was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous house, Fallingwater 1936.
“When it rains, a waterfall pours off the back veranda, thanks to the deliberate removal of eaves and gutters. The rainwater from the roof will fall down to the bottom of the bush where reclaimed rocks have been specifically positioned to help stop soil erosion – the rainwater will splash off the rocks,” he says.
“At night when the under deck lighting is on and it’s raining, the effect is that of a natural waterfall.”
Keeping a raw, creative and bold atmosphere, the interior décor has been described as “very Danish”, with varnished blonde timber and custom-made timber furniture workspaces and lighting complemented by minimal splashes of colour. The particleboard floor, made from a high level of recycled and scrap materials, is screwed on to the joists with some sealing, but left with no floor coverings.
Significant glass frontage take advantage of the bush views, while the exposed timber beams propel occupants into the scenery, ending with a five metre drop to the forest floor.
SSB Design Studio opted for lightweight but conventional construction methods (timber floor, wall and roof framing) to provide flexibility on the site, as well as keep the cost of materials low and the construction quick. Materials, including the painted cladding, Colorbond steel, powder coated aluminium and stained particle flooring, were selected for their durability and relative low maintenance.
Almost all timber, including the floor and ceiling beams, was drawn from plantation forests, and all materials and labour were sourced locally.
Defined by a clear, symmetrical composition axis shape but dissolving into its surrounds, this 45sqm tree house in a Queensland bush is physically small but dreams big, with the forest at its feet.