HOME DESIGN | A carbon-neutral glass house of eternal views

The Panopticon House project negotiates modernist and classical rural villa ideals, while balancing the conceptual counterpoint of 'viewing to' and 'viewing from', all while striving to be carbon-neutral. Picture: TM Photo.
The Panopticon House project negotiates modernist and classical rural villa ideals, while balancing the conceptual counterpoint of 'viewing to' and 'viewing from', all while striving to be carbon-neutral. Picture: TM Photo.

Cape Otway, Victoria

Set high on a hilltop in rural Victoria, sitting prominent and bold surrounded by panoramic views across the great southern ocean, is The Panopticon House.

Project architect Ben Milbourne of Bild Architecture said the intention of the design was never to blend with the site or be 'part' of the landscape.

"Instead it is consciously an object in the field, like the classical villa and the local vernacular of the rural shed," Milbourne said.

"The Panopticon House project is a hybrid of modernist and classical rural villa ideals, exploring the house as a figured object versus the disappearing enclosure".

A key element of the client brief was to minimise the interruption to the views of the surrounding landscape that stretched across the Bass Strait and Tasman Ocean.

"The house was in effect to become a device for seeing out - a 'Panopticon', whose primary function was that of observation, while emphasising the potential of architecture as a device for seeing," Milbourne said.

The Panopticon House. Picture: TM Photo.

The Panopticon House. Picture: TM Photo.

Located on the highest point on the site, The Panopticon House's elongated design folded back on itself to provide panoramic views in all directions, while capturing a central courtyard to provide shelter from prevailing winds on the exposed site.

Following the site's history as a patrol lease which had led to extensive deforestation, the project also served as a catalyst for reforestation of the area, Milbourne said.

"In partnership with the local chapter of Landcare, in excess of 25,000 manna gum and messmate eucalypt trees were planted across the site."

"As a glass house in an Australian climate, thermal comfort was carefully considered," Milbourne said.

The Panopticon House. Picture: TM Photo.

The Panopticon House. Picture: TM Photo.

Every room allowed cross venting, sliding doors can be adjusted to control air flow and moderate internal temperatures.

"The building is 100 per cent off grid with a 30Kw PV solar array and battery bank, with a 3kw wind turbine soon to be installed."

The home is carbon neutral, but if taking into consideration the tree planting program, the project overall becomes carbon negative - a reduction that is the equivalent of 3.5 times the average Australian house, Milbourne said.

The form of the house and the undulating folding roof, was produced by extruding view lines from key strategic points in the surrounding landscape, to focus on a single panoptic point within the courtyard. The aim was to produce a sense of compression and expansion to provide spatial articulation, introducing implied rooms and directing the gaze to key views of the landscape beyond the building.

"The project negotiates being seen and the seeing from as a point of departure, hybridising classical and modernist villa typologies to produce a novel third type that negotiates "viewing to" and "viewing from" a balanced conceptual counterpoint," Milbourne said.

From the outset the project aimed to emulate the design of Australian rural-industrial sheds to provide a long term, robust building suited to a rural setting.

To reflect this, Milbourne adopted a simple and durable pallet of off-form concrete, galvanised steel, fibre cement sheeting and sheet-metal roofing.

The primary structure was made of a series of radiating galvanised steel portal frames, which were exposed within the glazed walls as columns supporting galvanised steel windows and doors.

Hot-dip galvanised steel, provided a durable finish with minimal maintenance that would develop a patina over time, while withstanding the extreme environmental conditions on site.

  • With architecture resource BowerBird.