Nestled in the foothills of a small rural Victorian mountain range sits an affordable, sustainable, and tranquil shelter, designed to embrace but also survive the elements.

Reminiscent of the vernacular country tin shed, Prospect House by Breathe Architecture is a rural experiment from the team that has brought us some of Melbourne City’s most celebrated projects.

Prospect refuses to be constrained by the dogmas of light and heavy weight construction by borrowing aspects from both disciplines. It also challenges one of the most revered conventions of Australian architecture by excavating and cutting away at the landscape.

Facing the harsh realities of the climate in rural Victoria, Breathe had to make the difficult decision not to “touch the earth lightly” in their design. Rather, they physically had to cut into the earth to protect the house and its inhabitants from the brutal southwest winds. While initially this seems to create distance between the built and natural environment, Breathe says this decision afforded more external living space for the occupants and enabled them to better enjoy and celebrate the scenery in the warmer times of the year.

The small 97sqm home is bunkered down below the ridgeline of the surrounding hill. It is wrapped in a “light and tight” building envelope of double-dipped steel and raw ironbark cladding - a nod to the traditional hay shed.  The majority of the home’s natural light comes from its north-facing, double glazed window boxes which are protected by steel shrouds and oriented to control solar heat gain. To the south, tilt and turn windows and sliding doors open directly opposite those in the north to provide cross ventilation and easy night purge.  A massive steel awning on Prospect’s southern elevation adds an extra layer of sun and wind protection.

Breathe also borrowed from the doctrine of “mass and glass”. Their concrete slab, the only masonry element in the building, acts as the virtual continuous hearth throughout the plan, harnessing the northern sun to warm the home in winter.

Internally, the design is simple and compact. The design efficiently utilises all of the available space, including room for two bedrooms, one bathroom, a spacious kitchen and even a mudroom handy for country living. The kitchen and wet areas not only work as a planning device to separate rooms, but also work to absorb sound and provide warmth and privacy.

Breathe were briefed to build small and build well. At 97sqm and with a First Rate V.5 star rating of 7.9 stars it appears that they did both.

Prospect house is small, efficient, warm, and light. The home delicately balances the client’s need to retreat, while capturing the sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.

The project was completed in 2014 and won the IDEA14 Interior Design Excellence Awards for Residential-Single. 


  • High thermal efficiency. (7.9 star FirstRate V5.0)
  • The house is orientated to face due north and windows are shaded by steel shrouds to maximize passive solar design.
  • Window openings to the south are narrow slots frame a landscape view and minimise heat loss.
  • Tilt turn windows are on opposite sides of the home, they open into the plan promoting easy natural ventilation and allow quick night purges
  • Natural materials
  • Light and tight external skin versus insulated thermal mass within
  • No extra rooms and no air conditioning
  • Recycled hardwood benchtops
  • 20,000 litre rainwater tank is the sole water supply.
  • 315 litre solar hot water storage system
  • Windows have an average U value of 2.1
  • Onsite black water is treated via a worm waste treatment system delivering naturally treated
  • Grade-A water to the grass lands below the house
  • No sewerage leaves the site