Madeleine Blanchfield Architects was tasked with creating an outhouse that posed minimal impact on the surrounding landscape while providing the sense of being immersed in nature. This brief led to the creation of the Kangaroo Valley Outhouse—a simple cube wrapped in reflective glass that provides services for a small cabin available for overnight stays.
"The client’s desire to create a haven that not only provided a connection to the landscape but a place to truly escape was met through design," says architect Madeleine Blanchfield. Located about 100 feet downhill from the cabin, the glass cube is elevated above the ground and accessed via a pathway through the densely forested site. Blanchfield says "The outhouse heightens the sense of place, and makes one consider their location and the vulnerability of humans in the uncontrolled landscape."
The glass is mirrored on the outside but see-through on the inside. The reflective finish renders the structure practically invisible, minimizing the intrusion of architecture upon the lush landscape. The interior scheme is minimalist, with exposed steel framework, glass walls, and a reflective effect. At the center of the cube is a striking, white freestanding tub and shower. A toilet and hand sink are additional fixtures within the transparent cube.
At night, the mirrored facades become transparent, exposing the occupants to their surroundings. "The sense of being ‘exposed’ in the bathroom plays on the sense of place—being out of the confines and control of the city, and immersed in the natural environment," says Blanchfield. Due to the structure’s siting, there is no risk of being completely exposed—but the sensory effect is quite provoking.
Elevated and demountable, the structure can be easily removed, and the site below can be returned to its natural condition. It took careful engineering to make the outhouse invisible as well as functional. The use of large sheets of mirrored glass, connective details, and waterproofing were all challenges resolved with the engineer. The design team also incorporated a range of sustainable building strategies—including natural ventilation, solar-powered lighting, and gray water recycling.
"It was decided to spend the budget on achieving the brief and invisibility of the outhouse, while retaining the adjacent cabin as raw and basic," Blanchfield adds. The experience encourages visitors to immerse themselves in nature—whether protected in a serene bath retreat or trekking from a rustic cabin to a shiny glass cube (and taking in the sights along the way).
Architect of Record: Madeleine Blanchfield Architects
Builder/General Contractor: Archangel Corp P/L and Syndey City Renovations