Positioned amongst the hills in the Hunter Valley is Bluff Farm House. Completed in 2008 this project has won HIA Awards. Also featured in Belle Magazine, Houses Magazine and by Braun Press in Switzerland in the book “Masterpieces – Country House Architecture + Design.” As well as a feature in “Open House” in SMH’s Domain.
Architects: Richard Cole Architecture
Location: Hunter Valley
A residence in the beautiful countryside of the Upper Hunter Valley seeks to capture the strength of a singular gesture. The site sits on a grassy terrace overlooking a river and faces north up a spectacular valley, next to an old eucalypt. The sleeping areas are contained within encasing precast concrete walls. The lightweight steel framed roof creates a massive living space opening to the terrace and view. A palette of raw materials; concrete, galvanised steel, sandstone, and plywood add texture and warmth to the interior. The essential concept of the house reflects the way in which the owner has always used this place: setting up a table on the grass under the shade of the tree.
The house uses solar passive principles to maximise energy efficiency. The building is oriented due north and has large areas of north facing glass with a protective eave to exclude summer sun and permit deep entry of winter sunlight onto the polished concrete floor and precast concrete wall. Retractable aluminium louvres protect the verandah and western elevation from hot western sun. Southern windows are double glazed and operable louvres set into a highlight windows allow comprehensive cross ventilation and utilize the stack effect. The house is self sufficient in terms of water usage and a sewerage treatment facility has been incorporated. Hot water is heated using a solar system. Recycled Tallowwood has been used for internal doors, door frames and exposed studwork, and plywood used for wall and ceiling linings. Organic oil finishes were used on the timberwork. Acoustic plasterboard has been used in the ceiling to maximise acoustic comfort. Extensive use of concealed dimmable T5 fluorescent fittings provides an energy efficient lighting system.
The building was challenging in terms of construction due to the exacting tolerances demanded by the design and the exposed nature of the structure and detailing. Steel, concrete and timber structural members were all revealed and left with natural galvanised, precast or clear finishes. The unusual use of precast concrete in a residential design was also a challenge, with the adoption of building techniques more usually found in industrial construction. The result is a contemporary rural dwelling that incorporates the rawness and clarity of agricultural buildings and the sophistication of the latest residential architecture.