Feature Article

JR's Eco Hut at Kimo Estate by Luke Stanley Architects

Gundagai, NSW, Australia

Athena Regos

JR’s Eco Hut designed by Luke Stanley Architects and Anthony Hunt Design traverses the many possibilities of remote living and sustainability on an exposed hill-top site of rural Gundagai, New South Wales.

The A-frame hardwood structure occupies one of the oldest properties of Gundagai, Kimo Estate is high on a peak overlooking the majestic Murrumbidgee River flats. Designed for two people, JR’s Eco Hut declares to provide sanctuary and tranquillity away from all the hustle and bustle of present-day life.

Both Luke and Anthony’s design philosophy resonates with the aim to work vigorously and to deliver a refined contemporary architecture that is a result of the unique opportunities and constraints of each project. This notion was well suited to the JR’s Hut brief, which called for a contemporary ‘eco hut’ on an exposed rural site at Kimo Estate. The hut’s form was inspired by a classic A-frame tent to provide refuge from, and connection with, the natural environment. As they describe, JR’s Hut is “a place to switch off (quite literally) and overlook the distractions of modern life”.

The ‘A-frame’ structure features 360 degree views of the surrounding landscapes. Photography by Hilary Bradford.

Views of the majestic Murrumbidgee River and Gundagai landscapes. Photography by Hilary Bradford.

With the tenacity to stimulate various emotions in every aspect of the home, “the central intention was to create a building that would capture people’s imagination from afar and then deliver with a unique experience when visited”, they explain. The entire premise of the A-frame form and its relationship with the surrounding picturesque environment, both inside and out, play a crucial role in fulfilling this purpose.

Designed for two people, JR’s Eco Hut declares to provide sanctuary and tranquillity away from all the hustle and bustle of present-day life.

“Mid-century architecture is the period that we most closely identify with”, they reveal, “the Hut, like much of our work, has modernist traits but also responds to its rural context and natural environment”. The historical and cultural significance of the land of Gundagai and specifically of Kimo Estate was expressed in the existing shearing sheds and grain stores. These existing buildings have a practical hand-built nature which influenced many of the details in JR’s Hut, with their concrete thresholds, expressed hardwood frames and locally sourced materials.

A side elevation of the ‘A-frame’ tent-like structure with distant views of the surrounding farms. Photography by Hilary Bradford.

The motivation behind this sustainable, minimalistic design draws from the historical and cultural significance of the origin of the property. The philology of the name ‘JR,’ and ‘Kimo Estate‘ pays respect to the landowner who purchased the property in 1872, James Robinson. Luke and Anthony tell, “James set out about improving the land and buildings of this location, and he is credited with most of the improvements that stand today, including the wool and grain sheds, and original parts of the current Homestead”.

The hut’s form was inspired by a classic A-frame tent to provide refuge from, and connection with, the natural environment.

Philanthropist James was the first person to fence Kimo and reportedly had hundreds of people working on the site, which was considered a ‘massive boost’ to the local economy. Over time, the land was sub-divided and sold, and later purchased by the Ferguson family. The Ferguson family have owned and operated Kimo as a farm since 1978. Now, David and Emelia Ferguson have the responsibility of continuing this great tradition of guardianship over Kimo Estate. As the latest addition, JR’s Eco Hut explores ways of respecting the land, building sustainably, and promoting eco-living.

Close-up of the JR’s Hut’s structural form built with locally sourced materials. Photography by Hilary Bradford.

The Hut’s interior carefully designed to capture the picturesque landscape through every window. Photography by Hilary Bradford.

Sustainability was a vital component of the brief as it was essential for the builders to construct the hut with locally sourced and sustainable materials, easily handled by a two-person owner builder team, David and Emelia. This component was not only about minimising transport for materials but also allows the hut to be dismantled and recycled in the future. It was a sustainable idea set with the notion that ‘less is more.’ Additional sustainable services of the hut include good thermal performance achieved with high levels of insulation and cross ventilation. A fireplace provides heating using locally sourced wood, while rainwater is collected and stored on site. When it comes to lighting, a small solar panel and battery provide power for the LED lighting.

“The central intention was to create a building that would capture people’s imagination from afar and then deliver with a unique experience when visited”.

With sustainability in mind, it was a conscious decision by the clients to provide no power points and to minimise modern-day distractions and focus on the experience. The Hut interior is described as a hotel room with built-in joinery with natural hardwoods to define spaces and provide storage, complemented by a few fundamental items of furniture like loafing chairs and a comfortable bed. The primary purpose of this idea is to provide a simple lifestyle with minimal furniture pieces and diversions from the outside world.

Capturing the built-in joinery, furniture piece, and star gazing deck. Photography by Hilary Bradford.

This humble yet luxuriously simple dwelling’s success comes from three factors, Luke and Anthony explain. The first is the A-frame that has captured people’s imagination. Second is the experience of the hut, with its ‘gradual’ reveal of the surrounding landscapes. Final is the attention to detail and service from Kimo Estate which ensures a unique visitor experience in a ‘remarkable’ part of Australia.

“We encourage clients to consider that bigger is not always better when it comes to the future of sustainability and eco-living”, Luke and Anthony express, and JR’s Hut is an excellent example of this. They would like to see the trend shift away from large briefs and towards more efficient spaces that are inherently more sustainable like the presence of the A-frame structure at Kimo Estate.

The motivation behind this sustainable, minimalistic design draws from the historical and cultural significance of the origin of the property.

Kimo Estate’s finest hut, capturing one’s imagination even at night. Photography by Hilary Bradford.

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