While Tassie may have only gained more cultural traction with ‘mainlanders’ (aka the rest of Australia) in recent years, those born and bred (…or those of us who boarded the ‘Spirit’ every summer of their childhood) have always known there is something particularly special about our southernmost state, traced in a magnificent, rugged coastline, dense with bushland and with spectacular views from almost any vantage point.
The brief for small architecture firm Maguire Devine (headed up by Hugh Maguire and Dan Devine) was to place a small, off-the-grid cabin on an idyllic bush block on Bruny Island. With a client who works in a high-stress hospital environment, the tiny timber house was designed as a place of refuge from her busy vocation.
The cabin was to be simple, functional and thoughtfully integrated within the bushland. Keeping the client’s work-life in mind, as well her love of traditional Japanese architecture, Dan and Hugh wanted to ‘create a real sense of otherness, far away from life in a standard plasterboard house or sterile hospitals.’ Lining the cabin’s interiors with soft pine, the architects sought to create a cosy, contemporary environment.
But how to introduce a Japanese aesthetic whilst retaining a connection to the uniquely Australian bush context? ‘Balance’ was a key focus of the design team, itself a signature element across all aspects of Japanese design. Keeping the structure as a simple and pure form allowed it to sit ‘elegantly as an object in the landscape’, explains Dan, whilst external materials reference the ‘rural vernacular of architecture in the region’.
Responding to the challenging site lined with tall, dense bush to the North, Dan and Hugh opted for a steep roof to lift solar panels and a skylight high to catch the sun. This added height and volume to the building, allowing the design to go vertical, with a lofted bed accessible by a ladder.
As if living off-the-grid wasn’t tricky enough, the cabin was to be a space with no furniture, ‘shoes off and sitting on the floor’. As a result, the architects approached the cabin ‘as a piece of furniture, with everything [the client] needs built in as part of the whole’.