Designed for a sculptor based in regional Victoria, Sawmill House is, fittingly, a hand-crafted upgrade of his existing rustic and bohemian abode. The home is an example of how Australian building materials can be used in new and innovative ways.
Sawmill House was named as such due to its location, the site of an old sawmill that fell into disuse in the late 1990s. The finished product is the result of a close connection between architect and client; brothers with a shared creative vision. According to the architect, this established relationship encouraged the design to develop slowly over the course of construction, allowing for an immediate response to any challenges.
Working closely with a client with skills in building and sculpture inevitably meant that the project moved away from conventional design solutions towards more bespoke and cost-effective alternatives.
Perimeter walls were formed by 270 recycled blocks. Each block weighed around one tonne and was locally produced from the by-product of concrete slabs poured in the region. Not only are the blocks sustainable but they also create a patchwork of colour and texture across the façade. This texture helps to ground the building in the site, while the layers of colour mimic the sedimentary layers of earth still exposed from the site’s former life as a gold mine.
Large sections of the roof and façade were mechanised so the clients could add and subtract natural light as the seasons changed, and expose nature views.
To pay homage to the site’s previous use as a sawmill, the floor and ceiling were lined in locally sourced red stringy bark and narrow leaf peppermint timbers. The concrete blocks were largely left exposed and raw while the joinery was been wrapped in a patinated brass sheet that will continue to change over time.
To learn the most from the process, members of the architecture team designed and built the furniture, light fittings, joinery and hardware in a hands on approach that focused on ‘learning by making’.