Designed by Tasmanian-based Stuart Tanner Architects, this mid century modern-inspired glass house is perched on the edge of Frederick Henry Bay in South East Tasmania.
Built on a stretch of remote farmland on May’s Point, the coastal retreat needed to both stand up to the elements from its exposed position on the edge of the bay, and fold into the rugged landscape that surrounds it.
The client sought a retreat that offered as much exposure to the bay as possible, and as a design response to the expansive landscape.
“I immediately knew that with the absolutely breathtaking landscape, that any design response had to be cognizant of how the building was placed,” architect Stuart Tanner told Business Insider Australia.
“And over the broader context of how it appeared from the water out from a distance.”
The bay itself has a rich history; Dutch explorer Abel Tasman landed there in 1642, and the body of water has significance for the Paredarerme people who are the land’s original owners.
For decades, the cove has been farmland, which also overlooks a significant surf break the architect saw would be another consideration when designing the space.
“The first time I went down there and stood looking out, my first thoughts were that you’ve got a large, open, rolling empty site,” Tanner said.
The landscape’s openness presented challenges, as whatever was built would need to hold its own without standing out against the expansive, open hills.
“It needs to be a building that sits as quietly as quietly as possible in that contour,” Tanner said. “My first thoughts were around a building that just pushed to a very understated single line that underscores the landscape.”
‘You look across the Tasman Peninsula, and the light is constantly changing. There’s a light show going on all the time.’
The architect developed a design concept for a build with a soaring roof that sat on just a few walls.
“We tried to limit the amount of walls within the building, so that the roof really appears like it is floating over a collection of spaces,” Tanner said.
“So the emphasis behind the building is not so much the building itself, but more about the experience it gives you of where you are, it’s a vessel to experience where you are.”
To protect the house from exposure to the elements, it has double glazed glass and fully insulated concrete floor and walls.
“It is a building In a really rugged, exposed environment,” Tanner said.
Tasmania’s weather, where a sunny 35-degree day can quickly drop to 15 degrees with wind from the Tasman Sea, along with the house’s exposed location, meant that the design needed to create outdoor spaces that were protected from the elements, along with added insulation for the house itself.
Tanner said it was important that industrial elements used like concrete and raw steel had “an imperfection and earthiness about it.”
“There’s an authenticity about it and you can see the way it’s constructed,” he said. “Not only is there sustainability about these materials, there’s also durability.”
And because the sun angle in Tasmania is low, the design enables any rays to deeply penetrate the building during the day — “hitting those thermal mass walls and heating the building up,” he said.
“And then that heat is radiated out in the evenings.”
The open-plan interior was conceived as an extension of the minimal aesthetic of the build itself.
“The interior is actually quite sombre, and quite neutral, brought about by those materials and a dark ceiling, which we worked very closely with the client on,” Tanner said.
The home opens up with doors that provide a 12-metre opening on either side.
“Essentially on a still, sublime day, you can open up the entire building and walk straight through it from one side to the other,” Tanner said, “and literally you only have the roof above you.”
“The building itself becomes like a patio deck and outdoor space.”
The renaissance of Tasmanian design has seen a new wave of Tasmanian-based architecture firms creating spaces in conversation with its landscape.
Tanner’s influences; the mid century modernist era, Pierre Koenig, and the architecture coming out of California in the mid-20th Century, can be seen in the May’s Point house.
Brazlian architect Oscar Niemeyer is also a touch point. “It’s about the connection of his houses to landscape, which he did so beautifully and organically,” Tanner said.
But beyond that, Tanner said the growth of high end architecture in Tasmania is in-step with the wider cultural renaissance of the island in recent years; from modern art gallery MONA, to the food and wine industry.
“Broadly speaking, a lot of that work by Tasmanian-based architects is also contributing to that message,” Tanner said.
“What Tasmania stands for and being quality, high end, responsive design — design that responds to landscape in place.”