It starts from nothing, just a drawing or a sketch. The sketch is part of the process and not necessarily an end in itself as the conceptual idea emerges and turns itself over. Measured observations of the life to be lived draw conclusions about shape and form; define the intersection of spaces and the transitions between out and in.
A sense of place informs much of the idea and gives life and sustenance beyond the structure; and finally the building translates this sense of place into a home which will be tempered by the people who will live there.
Like many things which cannot be replaced by computers or machinery, this early drawing and model making connects the central idea with the hands and the eyes in a way that computer modelling cannot.
When you walk onto the site you can see people everywhere and they’re making things. They’re measuring a length of timber to be cut down or they’re building the board form frame for the next concrete pour or they’re up in the roof working on drainage points or timber batons. Everywhere you go you can see things being made. At every turn some one is working on a different part of the build.
The architect is the grand master of the designed space. He creates, cultivates and nurtures the concept as it goes through the build process. He considers the volume of a room, the way light falls through a space and whether the design has maintained its integrity amongst the necessities of build and of budget.
And beyond that, there are yet hundreds more decisions being made by the builders on site every week. You can see the patience and the wisdom in this detail. To dismiss them as merely the execution of the plan would be to misunderstand the way in which this build detail delivers on the integrity of the design, anchoring it in craftsmanship and providing a new deeply visceral sense of place. With such a reduced palette of materials, the concrete, timber, copper and stone is reliant on the artistry of the builder to tell the story which has been laid out before him .
There is community on the site. A core team of diehards whose fingerprints will be on every aspect of this house; and a more transient community who came to provide skill and labour, swelling the ranks for a season.
On the site the boys are taking a smoko and sitting around an open fire. It reminds us of camping and the intimacy of having been through long stretches of exertion and the sweet collapse at day’s end, that brings both the satisfaction of a day well done and comfortable weariness.
There’s an energy here on this site that we were not expecting. There’s a feeling of togetherness and commitment that can only be understood in visceral terms. This is emblematic of the relationships these people have with each other and the path that has been laid for others who are newer to the fold. As the build takes form with all these hands working together, you can feel this energy everywhere on site.
It seems strange to imagine a new build having so much soul but you can feel it even before the site is locked down. It’s the shape of a room, the intersection of materials, the copper detail on the roof that no one will ever see, but we know it’s there and that someone did it anyway. Building is an imperfect process and many things are done for the first time on site. It seems easy these days to be impressed with people and machines who learn fast, but nothing beats the perspective and wisdom that comes from experience. Hands that have been here before and can apply what they know and intuit in the moment.
In some ways the house will be a sort of record of the experience of the creative process. A running documentation of a million conversations about how we’d like to live and what makes a family. It will speak to a love of copper and timber and the patinas they bring with time; and a fierce love of the imperfections in concrete and stone that will forgive a lifetime of living.
This building will house not only the energy of the place it is built on, but the energy and the efforts of all who have touched it. For it is not only a journey from the highest architectural idea to the smallest build detail which brings us here, but the people who have built it with their own hands.
And then a house is built.
Photography: Bruce Walters @The Situation Room