With sweeping views over the New South Wales Megalong Valley, the Australian House of the Year – the ‘Invisible House’ by Peter Stutchbury Architecture – captures the essence of the Australian landscape.
Situated in the Blue Mountains four hours west of Sydney on a 75-hectare property, the Invisible House offers a place of retreat for a Sydney filmmaker and artist, who wanted a remote getaway and a place for visitors to immerse themselves in the Australian bush.
Nestled into a ridgeline dotted with native eucalyptus and gum trees, its natural platform provides protection from the harsh westerly winds, freezing winter temperatures and scorching summer sun, while still offering up uninterrupted views of blue skies and vast expanses of bushland. The house remains almost hidden upon approach and only appears as an extension of the sinuous ridge-line, highlighting its harmony with and connection to the natural setting.
From the top of the ridge, only the surface of roof can be seen, which features undulating rust-toned boxes and cantilevering surfaces stretching four meters to the east and west. The roof functions as both a dam for rainwater and thermal device, and space for the bedrooms and bathrooms below.
The house sinks further into landscape upon entry from the ridge-top. Walking down a set of concrete stairs to the single level below, you are greeted by a wide cave-like gallery, which runs through to the home’s internal spaces – four bedrooms, open plan kitchen and living space and a central courtyard with a fire pit, reminiscent of a campsite but protected from the elements in the heart of the home.
The form, materials and details run seamlessly from inside to out. Externally, concrete, glass and steel are able to withstand the pressures from the environment, while inside concrete floors, wall and ceilings are also designed for the same purpose. Materials like stone, star pickets, fencing wire, raw brass and hoop pine plywood mirror the elements you would typically find in a rural Australian landscape, bringing a sense of authenticity to the buildings interior.
Praised by the jury for its balanced response to the site location, the house is genuinely immersed in the landscape. It is neither in competition with its setting, nor at odds with its connection to place. As the winner, it’s a testament to the impressive work being produced across Australia.
The jurors for this year’s awards were Brian Donovan, Principal, BVN Donovan Hill (QLD), Maggie Edmond, Founding Director, Edmond and Corrigan (VIC), William Smart, Creative Director, Smart Design Studio (NSW), Emma Williamson, Co-Founder, CODA (WA), and Katelin Butler, Editor, Houses magazine (VIC).
Do you think the Invisible House responds attentively to site, user and climate? What elements make this house deserving of the Australian House of the Year?