Design for sensitive landscapes demands a layer of expertise that respects fragile ecosystems and is truly restorative and sustainable. It also requires compliance with complex planning laws and regulatory frameworks.

Alpine Australia sets the background for such expertise and challenges. Architecture at elevation is no easy feat across the seasonal extremes that include high snowfall and blizzards in Winter, as well as intense heat and bushfire risk in Summer.

This compact residential project located at Dinner Plain in the Victorian Alps not far from Mount Hotham ski resort, is an example of how low-impact architecture can be achieved at 1,570m while gently sitting in a very sensitive landscape.

Known as the ‘Black Out’ house the building was designed by Helen Mathew FRAIA from
Mountain Creek Architecture in Mount Beauty, who for several years has specialised in the design of homes, lodges and chalets in Victoria’s alpine valleys and ski resorts.

Created as a year-round holiday use for a Bermagui family, Black Out was conceived as a small efficient holiday chalet that talks to the existing Dinner Plain village style without mimicking the existing buildings. In many respects Black Out is a successful but contemporary blend of alpine refuge, club lodge and cattlemen’s hut. Mathew has a relatively long history as an alpine bushwalker and skier so she understands the heritage context without being subordinate to clich├ęd  architectural responses.

This wheelchair accessible two bedroom, small footprint dwelling manages to provide a spacious living area with high-raked ceilings and large clerestorey windows. Energy efficiency on a low budget with  the main windows facing north for the Winter sun, render the building comfortable and optimised for natural light. Other energy efficiency measures include:

  • use of heat recovery units in the living area;
  • ducting high-level warm air into the bedrooms;
  • high spec insulation to roof, walls and under floor;
  • efficient hydronic heating system run through floor slab;
  • high quality double-glazed windows; and
  • lapping and sealing of all wall and roof membranes.
     

On the outside, the building is a high-performance snow-shedding abode while ensuring that all snow falls away from pedestrian areas. Highly durable materials and finishes combat against the harsh environment and require minimal ongoing maintenance. Colourbond steel and charred timber cladding provide the ideal ‘skin’ to circumvent the need for re-finishing.

Design and construction at altitude is a specialised area of architecture that when creatively executed, complements the alpine landscape and enhances occupant pleasure. Mathew’s approach provides an intelligent template for adjacent developments without constraining the look and feel of future dwellings.
 

More information visit Mountain Creek Architecture