A Fire-Resistant House Cuts a Striking Figure in the Australian Bush

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By Lucy Wang
Close client-architect collaboration and bespoke elements give rise to a rugged, contemporary home for a Melbourne family seeking a slower pace of living.

By the time the client, Matt Somers, enlisted the help of Fitzroy–based Field Office Architecture to craft a spacious, three-bedroom, country abode for his family of four, he knew he wanted something bold and contemporary.

Instead of giving up the design reins, Matt worked closely with principal architect Chris Barnes to execute his vision for a modernist home that would make the most of its stunning, bushland views.

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Nestled into the side of Mount Macedon, the home is on a remote site surrounded by nature, yet still within a commutable drive to Melbourne.

Nestled into the side of Mount Macedon, the home is on a remote site surrounded by nature, yet still within a commutable drive to Melbourne.

"At the very first briefing session, the client presented to us some very modernist images, including work by Mies van der Rohe," explains Chris. "It’s not every day the client hands you such an exciting brief, and we knew very early on that all parties were going to be on the same page."

Moreover, the client worked in an industry with access to bespoke cladding and building products, an advantage that Chris says "essentially gave us the opportunity to design many of the items we wanted from scratch."

"It was important to the owner as well that the site not be over-excavated, but rather emerge gently out of the existing landscape," explains Chris. "The elevated and light form essentially grew out of this."

"It was important to the owner as well that the site not be over-excavated, but rather emerge gently out of the existing landscape," explains Chris. "The elevated and light form essentially grew out of this."

Mirroring its long and narrow site, the 2,200-square-foot Mount Macedon House stretches north to south as a rectangular volume elevated on pillars to mitigate the steep, yet minimally excavated, slope.

The secluded and tranquil setting is a complete departure from the client's former home in an inner Melbourne suburb.

The secluded and tranquil setting is a complete departure from the client's former home in an inner Melbourne suburb.

The Mount Macedon House is the first-ever building constructed on this site.

The Mount Macedon House is the first-ever building constructed on this site.

Spectacular views of the bushland to the north and northeast informed the interior layout. The living spaces are oriented towards the north and overlook views through glazed sliding doors, while the sleeping and study spaces are tucked into the more introverted, Cor-Ten-clad rear half of the home.

Capral 900 series aluminum-framed glazed sliding doors wrap around the living area to establish an indoor/outdoor connection.

Capral 900 series aluminum-framed glazed sliding doors wrap around the living area to establish an indoor/outdoor connection.

Since the dwelling is located in an area considered very high risk for bush fire attacks, the material palette and footprint had been largely informed by stringent, BAL 40 requirements.

Bespoke Cor-Ten cladding wraps around the home to meet local bushfire regulations.

Bespoke Cor-Ten cladding wraps around the home to meet local bushfire regulations.

Outdoor stairs lead to an accessible rooftop deck that offers 360-degree views. Kliplock metal sheeting clads the roof.

Outdoor stairs lead to an accessible rooftop deck that offers 360-degree views. Kliplock metal sheeting clads the roof.

The windows, for instance, needed to include full screens with an aperture no greater than a tenth of an inch. The solution came in the form of bespoke, hinged and perforated Cor-Ten-clad panels that can be remotely opened and closed as required.

Similar sliding screens are used for the living area glazing on the north side of the home.

A deep roof overhang creates a sheltered outdoor patio for enjoying north-facing views of the landscape.

A deep roof overhang creates a sheltered outdoor patio for enjoying north-facing views of the landscape.

The light-filled living area features Bluestone paving and polished plaster walls.

The light-filled living area features Bluestone paving and polished plaster walls.

Chris concludes, "We expected that in designing our own cladding profiles and having them come to site that something would go wrong, but we were quite fortunate that it was incredibly smooth in the end!"

"Screening along the east provides some visual protection from the neighbouring properties whilst not compromising any of the views or natural light, which fills the living space and kitchen from morning until late afternoon," adds Chris.

"Screening along the east provides some visual protection from the neighbouring properties whilst not compromising any of the views or natural light, which fills the living space and kitchen from morning until late afternoon," adds Chris.

Here's the floor plan of the fire-resistant home.

Here's the floor plan of the fire-resistant home.

An elevation view of the Mount Macedon House.

An elevation view of the Mount Macedon House.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Field Office Architecture

Builder/General Contractor: Seventy 7 Projects

Structural Engineer: Bruce Hollioake + Partners NA