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An Unconventional 'Tent House' In The Noosa Hinterland

Architecture

When the owners of a secluded rainforest block outside Noosa came to Sparks Architects, they asked for a modest sized house that maximised interaction with the site – the rest was up to director Dan Sparks.

The architect certainly delivered on these expectations, designing a ‘tent house’ inspired by the feeling of camping under the stars. This innovative design facilitates two distinct modes – one where the home’s roof and walls are wide open, and the other where the house functions as an insulated box. 

Designing and building a tent-like residential structure was a huge undertaking, the result is amazing and totally unique! (You might recognise it from Grand Designs Australia!)

17th July, 2020

A tent-like canopy is the main element of this home by Sparks Architects. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

This project was inspired by similar homes designed by the late Australian architect Gabriel Poole, who Dan Sparks, director of Sparks Architects, worked with for six years. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

The south-east Queensland climate means the home’s roof and walls can be opened, leaving just the tent above, for most of the year. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

Sliding screens throughout the home allow for a number of variations in how the house is configured. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

The three-bedroom home stretches from east to west to maximise views of the rainforest and access to northern light. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

This house is so special, it was even documented on Grand Designs Australia. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

Who wouldn’t want to wake up here? Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

The tent was made by Fabritecture from material manufactured in France. It was engineered in Australia, then put together in Manila in the Philippines. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

When not opened up, the family house functions as an insulated box. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

The architect had worked with tent-like structures before in commercial projects, but never in a residential context. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

The block is the only clearing in a protected zone, and is surrounded by dense, lush rainforest.  Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

Dan’s favourite part of the project is, ‘Sitting on the steps from the living space to the deck and looking out to the wall of rainforest framed by the flowing lines of the tent, masts and guy-wires.’ Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones

Amelia Barnes
Friday 17th July 2020

‘We wanted to explore the notion of a camp in a clearing.’ – Dan Sparks

If you asked an architect to design your dream home, you probably wouldn’t expect them to design a tent. Of course, this is no ordinary tent (being made from material manufactured in France, engineered in Australia, and put together in Manila in the Philippines for $150,000) but it is the central element of this unique house by Sparks Architects

This project was inspired by similar homes designed by the late Australian architect Gabriel Poole, who Dan Sparks, director of Sparks Architects, worked with for six years. ‘Gabriel’s own Tent House and similar projects certainly introduced me to the beauty of simple living environments with a lightweight structure and stripped back materiality,’ Dan says. The architect had worked with this type of structure before in commercial projects, but never in a residential context. ‘We wanted to explore the notion of a camp in a clearing… Albeit one which could fall back to a more conventional notion of shelter when needed,’ Dan says.

If there were ever a place to explore this idea, it would have to be this Noosa Hinterland site. The Verrierdale block is the only clearing located in a protected zone (the land came with an old planning permit that was signed off before restrictions came in), and is surrounded by dense, lush rainforest. 

To suit the site’s climatic conditions and bushfire requirements, Dan designed the home to feature two distinct modes: one where the roof and walls are open and the house becomes a platform under a tent, and the other where these elements are closed and the space is an insulated box. Sliding screens throughout the home further allow for a number of variations between these two conditions.

The Fabritecture made tent is not merely an aesthetic feature, but also a functional one that facilitates air movement throughout the home. ‘As the hot air rises and slides along and up the underside of the tent, new cooler air from low in the rainforest is drawn into and across the internal spaces,’ explains Dan. The tent can also be lit up to attract insects up and away from the internal spaces, ridding the rooms of mosquitoes and moths in the process. 

This project wasn’t without its challenges. For one, the sliding roof meant many services and fittings normally contained in the ceiling needed to be rethought, requiring a team effort from the builder (Jaicon Constructions), plumber and electrician. Due to the unknown and untested elements of the design, the banks also valued the home at less than it cost to build. 

Fortunately, it was all worth it. Inside is a relatively intimate home that allows its family occupants to connect with one another, while feeling totally immersed in the incredible rainforest surrounds.

This takes ‘glamping’ to a whole new level!

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net