For architects working on historical or significant sites, designing for the ‘how’ of construction is just as important as the ‘what’ of the structure itself. This was certainly the case for James Davidson Architect (JDA), who designed a cottage on World Heritage-listed land in the north of Australia.

Located on North Queensland’s Lizard Island, the design concept for Wilson’s Cottage ensured the structure touched the earth lightly and receded into the landscape. Sited on a hill, the dwelling creeps into vision as visitors make the climb from the beach.


An ecologically sensitive process – and one that minimised any impact on the landscape below – was required. Necessarily, this influenced the choice of construction method and material palette. Materials were delivered to the site by barge and offloading to a floating pontoon before being hauled onto the beach. They were then winched overland on a mechanised A-frame hoist, which left the landscape unaffected.

The physical form of Wilson’s Cottage is one of a robust outer timber shell designed to weather over time. The structure mixes with the colours of the surrounding geology. Over time, this will allow the house to become even more subdued within the landscape.


Interior design practice, Twofold Studio, ensured the house’s interiors were designed to reflect the surrounding ocean and earthy island landscape. Cyclone shutters form a large portion of the south-western façade, allowing the creation of a perforated plywood art-wall with a pattern designed by artist Skye Peterson.


Seeing the project come together had been a life-long ambition for JDA’s client, who first lodged a development application 26 years ago. The client’s father had a long history with the island, dating back to the 1950s.

In recent months, Wilson’s Cottage has been shortlisted for the 2017 Houses Awards and the World Architecture Festival (WAF) Awards