This house for a couple is located in a valley at Longley, 30kms south of Hobart. Three key spatial experiences define this valley and have affected the placement of the house: a line of large, evergreen trees to the south which, along with the mountain to the north, provides a sense of containment; a gully running diagonally to this axis, articulating the key fold in the sloping site; and the rise in the ground plane toward a nearby hill in the west.
While Tasmania is poor in financial terms, it is extremely wealthy in its natural landscape and among its many hills and valleys, multiple and picturesque views are almost common. The valley occupied by the Longley house is such a place. The question of how you deal with the view was therefore important to the way we approached this project.
This house was the first completed by the practice and, as such, it reflected the concerns around which the practice originally formed - a series of discussions regarding the potency of the “threshold” both to an external, physical space and also an internal psychological one. This architectural threshold was understood not just as a physical moderation of light, temperature and moisture between inside and out, but as a space of engagement and exchange - projection and introjection - between the world and us. We began thinking about Longley in these terms.
This project responds to our interest in the possibilities of the archeological mark in the landscape acknowledging that this land is not an empty, unmarked wilderness but, as recently discovered, the oldest known place of human occupation and by which it has been substantially modified. In the Longley House two parallel walls mark the site. While they aspire toward an essential, irreducible quality, they are complex in nature, reflecting the site’s complex form.
A “filter” was placed between these walls modulating the threshold between the house and the landscape, both climatically and metaphysically. The three dimensional ‘zone’ has been a critical response to the ‘louvered skin’ endemic for some time in Australian architecture. Through the intersession of carefully placed personal objects this architectural prosthetic allows the occupant to escape the distancing effect of objective ‘looker’ and to become subjectively engaged, an ‘actor’ and participant in (rather than simply an observer of) the landscape.
Photography by Richard Eastwood
Image of Maisons Jaoul courtesy of Foundation Le Corbusier.