Peter Stutchbury, winner of the Australian Institute of Architects’ prestigious Gold Medal in 2015, was born in Sydney in 1954. Though he lived for most of his childhood on the city’s North Shore, he also took advantage of the fact that he had relatives in rural NSW. Visiting them as often as possible, he developed an affinity with the land.
By the time he was a teenager, this love of the outdoors had extended to the ocean. He was a keen surfer and spent as much time as he could travelling the East Coast of Australia looking for the next big storm swell.
As he tells the story, around 1973, he had to cut one such trip short to get back to Newcastle and enrol for his first year of university. Unsure of what field of study to pursue, even up to the point where he was lining up to enrol, he eyed an alphabetic list of courses on offer. The entry after accounting – architecture – caught his eye and the rest is history.
Peter had found his place. He involved himself in his studies whole heartedly and after graduation one of his first projects was a church, he designed in Papua Guinea which was completed in 1983. Designed in the style of a traditional ‘long house’ it marked the beginning of a life-long fascination with non-Western cultures.
In 1991, he established a joint practice with his wife Phoebe Pape and since then he has made his mark on the architectural community of Australia. Though best known for his houses, he has also designed some highly acclaimed public buildings and other well-received works like the Deepwater Woolshed near Wagga Wagga and the award-winning Sydney Olympic Archery Park.
Peter Stutchbury architect - his work
Peter Stutchbury is committed to establishing a connection between his buildings and their settings. For him, if the project does not succeed in this objective, it is of no value. Moreover, he believes that by engaging with their settings (physically, emotionally, and or spiritually), buildings can help intensify the lived experiences of their inhabitants.
When awarding Stuchbury its Gold Medal, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) noted that his work mastered “the art of creating architecture that speaks of the place it inhabits.”
Peter Stutchbury is a ‘sustainability’ pioneer, though for him the now-fashionable term is often poorly understood and the work that claims to embody the concept often misses the mark. For him, sustainability is much more than a sum game: an audit of materials and a calculation of carbon usage. True sustainability embraces not just the physical but also the social and spiritual. As indigenous Australians practice it, sustainability is a holistic concept.
Peter Stutchbury’s work has featured in 200 books and journals, and exhibited around the world in Europe, America, and Asia. Peter Stutchbury Architecture has won 47 awards from the AIA alone. Considering this level of acclaim, any attempt to highlight his best work will invariably miss some highlights. Still, some of his work such as Pirramimma House speaks for itself.
A striking Blue Mountains house with a massive zinc roof on a slight pitch from the adjacent hill to the west before folding over at its ridge line and falling down the side of the building to make up the bulk of the eastern façade, Pirramimma House was unfortunately destroyed by bush fire in 2019.
Sydney Olympic Park Archery
Designed by Peter Stutchbury Architecture with project architects, Ray Fitzgibbon, Fergus Scott, and Katrina Julienne, Sydney Olympic Park Archery was constructed for the 2000 Olympics on a 6.5 hectare site adjacent to Homebush Bay. The pavilion, which measures 100m x 10m, has an awning roof that recalls the ‘razor blade’ roofs found in the Australian outback. The awarded project received praise for capturing the spirit of archery.
Located Jenolan Caves road in the Blue Mountains, Invisible House is a four-bedroom home that sits high on a hill and affords spectacular bush views. Like all Peter Stutchbury’s best work, it celebrates its setting. Sitting below the ridgeline and therefore protected from the wind, it earns its name and it features a roof that catches rainwater and creates a water feature.
Cabbage Tree House
Situated on a steep block in Bayview, on Sydney’s Norrthern Beaches, Cabbage Tree House presents as part of the hillside. Adjacent to a large rock shelf and incorporating a pond on its top, the home provides its inhabitants with the feeling of being in a cave.
Created by Peter Stutchbury Architecture in 2007 with project architects, Marika Jarv and Rachel Hudson, Avalon House features a skillion roof with a glazing that provides it with a sense of lightness and ensures that it doesn’t detract from the native canopy. Produced at minimal cost, Avalon House is true to Peter Stutchbury’s ethos of ensuring owning a Peter Stutchbury House is accessible to a range of people of differing financial means.
Having spent many years living in nearby Clareville with his wife Phoebe Pape and their three children, Peter Stutchbury now lives in a tent – a ‘Tent House’ to be more accurate – by the beach in Avalon. Though conceived as a temporary home before he designs something more permanent, Tent House itself has received much praise.
A holiday retreat in Vanuata, Reef House is located at Teouma Bay, just outside of Port Vila. It was complete in 2009. It is not for sale.
Winner of the 2015 Wilkinson Award for Residential Architecture, Lighthouse Dover Heights is located on top of a cliff, overlooking the Ocean in Sydney’s Dover Heights. Described by the judges as “poetic and investigative, and a delight to experience”, Stutchbury avoids the obvious temptation to put all its and focus entirely on the spectacular ocean views. Instead, Light House presents several openings and points of view.
Depot Beach House
Completed by Peter Stutchbury Architecture in 2008 with project architect Richard Smith, Depot beach House recalls the traditional Aussie beach shack. A celebration of family, space and holidaymaking, it takes this archetype and – typically for Stutchbury – adds to it a deep respect for place.