A Sculptural Home Inspired By The Hepburn Landscape

When designing a short-term accommodation project in an already crowded marketplace, a unique approach is required.

This sentiment underpins Oikos at Breakneck Gorge, a small house designed by Robert Nichol and Sons to suit holiday makers in Hepburn, Victoria.

The use of the same material on the walls and roof of the home forms a cohesive expression, resulting in a home that presents as a folded sculptural form in the landscape.

Amelia Barnes

Oikos at Breakneck Gorge is designed by Robert Nichol and Sons. Photo – Jack Lovel.

The Corten form lifts off from the ground, appearing much like the hills in the distance. Photo – Jack Lovel.

This property is located in a deep, tree-filled gorge just outside Hepburn, Victoria. Photo – Jack Lovel 

The interior palette is made up of natural materials such as oak flooring and stained plywood. Photo – Jack Lovel 

Marble and concrete are the hero materials of the bathroom. Photo – Jack Lovel 

This bathroom gives the home a real luxury feel. Photo – Jack Lovel 

The property is rented out as short-term accomodation. Photo – Jack Lovel 

The home has been a winner and finalist in several design awards. Photo – UAVISUALS

Amelia Barnes
9th of December 2019

Oikos is located on a prominent and elevated site just outside Hepburn, about 90 minutes drive from Melbourne. While the site provides wonderful views across the region, it’s also subject to harsh weather elements, necessitating a robust and rugged home design.

This challenge was put to Robert Nichol and Sons – a Melbourne based practice run by Brett Robertson and David Nicholson. David is an architect but Brett’s background is in fine art – a combination that informs the art-like aesthetic that exemplifies much of the studio’s work.

Corten cladding was selected for the home’s facade, due to its longevity and ability to be used on both the roof and walls – a concept the designers enjoy pursuing. ‘This allows the building to take on more of an ‘object’ quality, which harks back to my days of making art, so the building presents more sculpturally than just as a dwelling,’ Brett says,

The building’s folded metal form lifts away from the ground, appearing much like the hills in the distance, and is anchored by an 11-metre wall of dark, handmade bricks.

At 70 square metres, the internal layout of this home is relatively small. To enhance the feeling of space, expansive views can be seen from every room, and the floorplan adopts a free-flowing layout with no designated, central space. Oak flooring, stained plywood, marble, concrete, aged brass tapware, and stone tiling are among materials chosen to mirror natural elements of the rugged landscape outside.

Brett says the success of this project is a credit to the trades team, who were able to translate the design vision into a real-life structure. ‘I think with any building that is somewhat abstract and outside of the usual architectural and building norms, the translation from studio to built form is challenging… Although we have computer programs that illustrate these visions very well, there is still the fear that when completed there will be some disappointment in the outcome,’ he explains.

‘Thankfully the disconnect that has existed at times between architect and builder seems to be lessening these days, and in this case, from the very outset, the success of this building was a shared goal of both.’

Oikos at Breakneck Gorge is available for short-term rent. See all the details on how to book here

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