Oikos, Breakneck Gorge
Robert Nichol & sons
Hepburn Springs, VIC, Australia
Oikos by Robert Nichol & Sons is designed to provide an indulgent retreat amongst some of Australia’s most stunning natural scenery.
The team at Robert Nichol & Sons were engaged by the clients to design a short-term residential building to complement their existing suite of buildings on site, which consists of homestead, another short-term rental, and agricultural outbuildings. The site was located in an area of immense natural beauty so the architects knew their design had to respect and connect with this stunning location. This region has a plethora of available short-term stays but given the unique potential this site offered, connection to the landscape was critical. There was also a need for privacy toward the homestead – that guests and owners would each not be aware of the other’s presence so as to enjoy dual occupancy with limited physical interaction and we also looked at the strongest viewpoints, so that the best vistas were achieved while sheltering views back to the homestead.
The site was located in an area of immense natural beauty so the architects knew their design had to respect and connect with this stunning location.
Robert Nichol & Sons decided to remove any dedicated circulation space, instead adopting a simple sequence of arrival into the open plan living, transitioning through the dressing and bathing zone and finally into the bedroom. This enabled a tight layout of 70sq/m to present as a series of interesting volumes, each with a strong identity, discovered as one moves through the space. Because of the site’s exposure to the weathering elements the clients wanted a building that didn’t require ongoing external maintenance, so the architects started to explore the various cladding options available. The final outcome was a desire to ensure the design would work with the land, not against it.
This created a solid anchoring device that grounds the folded form and acts as a counterpoint to the corten finish.
The material for all facets would be the same, as opposed to separate wall and roof finishes, so that the dwelling took on an object quality, like a folded piece of sculpture. Corten was finally selected for its aesthetic appeal and ability to blend and for its quality to evolve and change with time and season. The builder, metal fabricator and the installer were engaged during the designing phase, which was critical to achieving a refined finish technical issues. The roof was broken into two forms, creating multiple ridges and a valley not unlike the distant hills – this introduced more angles for the cladding to express itself.
The finalised form evolved to lift itself as the ground fell away – to counteract this float a long solid masonry wall of handmade dark bricks was developed. This created a solid anchoring device that grounds the folded form and acts as a counterpoint to the corten finish.
Ultimately the project successfully met all the clients’ expectations and more – they look out to a sculptured mix of corten form and long masonry blade, which reads neatly as a connection to the landscape rather than an inhabited space. Meanwhile, visitors enjoy spectacular framed views from the carefully placed and shaped windows and a level of internal amenity rarely offered on the market.