The large Eucalyptus found on the lot played an essential part in our design concept. These trees were located in the middle of the site and the client’s intention was to take them down to make some room for the house. However, we saw this pre-existing condition as what 'made' an otherwise anonymous site and advocated to retain them.
As a result, the house bridges in between the tree-trunks, and its outline defines two open courtyards of irregular shape that embrace the trees and the surrounding landscape, around which family life occurs. A tall window in the dining area and a periscope-like skillion in the master bedroom celebrate the presence of the trees from within the house, framing views of both foliage and peeling trunks in the golden Australian sunlight. In visual and tactile response to the existing trees, the house was constructed out of plywood, whose grain and texture inform interior and exterior spaces.
Though contributing strongly to the quality of the project, the existing trees, with their shallow root systems and unstable large canopies presented a substantial challenge to the build-ability of the house. In response to such challenges, the footing system employed a matrix of hand-dug steel tripods that raises the house off the ground to protect the integrity of the tree roots. Conversely, any part of the building’s footprint overlapping the root system would result in an uneven rainwater supply to the roots, which could cause a shock to the trees. Rainwater collected on the roof is therefore taken under the house, channelled into trickling irrigation pipes and then evenly fed to the tree roots.
We like to think of this project as a mutually beneficial development where the building is designed to feed the trees, which in return contribute to the quality of the life in the house.