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A Contemporary Reinterpretation Of The Classic Australian Farmhouse

Architecture

The classic farmhouse is an often romanticised archetype of Australian architecture. Nostalgic, beautiful – but often rambling, cold, and disconnected from the surrounding land. 

Keen to overcome these common pitfalls, FMD Architects reinterpreted the traditional farmhouse in ‘Coopworth’ – a sustainable, contemporary home framing views at every opportunity. Natural materials have been incorporated throughout, including wool from the property, used as an internal feature on the dramatic ceiling. 

The resulting home on Tasmania’s Bruny Island fully embraces its environment – sheep, dust, mountains, water and all!

11th May, 2021

‘Coopworth’ is a contemporary interpretation of a country farmhouse.  Photo – Dianna Snape

The ceiling is lined with wool from the property. Sealed with clear, polycarbonate corrugated sheeting, the wool adds to the thermal performance, while celebrating the farm. Photo – Dianna Snape

Generous interiors are facilitated by various gabled, hipped and skillion rooflines. A Photo – Dianna Snape

 An efficient, slow-combustion wood fire is the main source of heating. Photos – Dianna Snape

Window bays feature sunken beds for grandchildren sleepovers! Photo – Dianna Snape

A chimney stack often seen on the historic shacks has been reimagined as a sunken bath, further connecting the bather to the surrounding paddock and resident sheep that come up to the glass. Photo – Dianna Snape

Rich interior materials reflect the colours of the surrounding land. Photo – Dianna Snape

An attic-like mezzanine serves as study space and guest bedroom. Photo – Dianna Snape

The attic bedroom.  Photo – Dianna Snape

The house sits solid and proud in the paddock; not fenced off from the sheep. Photo – Dianna Snape

The covered outdoor dining area. Photo – Dianna Snape

A house combines traditional farm building materials – corrugated iron, wood, concrete and rock – with the modern environmental features. Photo – Dianna Snape

The house’s lightweight construction eased transportation of building supplies to the remote site, while local trades were called upon to reduce travel and build ties with the community. Photo – Dianna Snape

Amelia Barnes
Tuesday 11th May 2021

‘This project is really every architect’s dream project.’ – Fiona Dunin

Farmhouses are typically located away from arable land, but ‘Coopworth’ isn’t your standard farmhouse.

Turning the traditional farmhouse vernacular on its head (while still drawing on this style aesthetically) the new home is deliberately not fenced off from sheep, instead standing proud in its paddock. 

When engaging FMD Architects, the clients requested a house able to accommodate between two and 20 people. Universal access was also important to support visitors with disabilities, and the couple’s potential future needs.

The resulting footprint of the house is consciously constrained to maximise arable land, but with generous interiors facilitated by various gabled, hipped and skillion rooflines. Simple plywood linings and concrete floors draw focus to this ceiling, which features wool sourced from the property, adding to its thermal performance. 

Window niches on the home’s northern elevation capture views of farmland, mountains and water beyond, whilst frameless windows embrace wild winds and rains, allowing residents to be simultaneously immersed in, and protected from, the beauty and brutality of the weather.

Chimney stacks commonly seen on Bruny Island’s historic shacks have been reimagined here as a sunken bath, further connecting the interiors  to the surrounding land, including the resident sheep that come up to the glass!

‘The way it is recessed in the ground allows the bather to feel like they are alone with the sheep in the paddock,’ says FMD Architects director Fiona Dunin. 

While primarily designed to accommodate two principal occupants, this house can just easily host several guests through creative interpretations of Australian verandah sleep outs and caravan bunk beds. This is shown in the ground floor window bays which feature sunken beds – a ‘camping-like arrangement nurturing familial connection,’ as FMD describes it. ‘It’s like a giant slumber party for the grandkids!’ says Fiona. 

A large solar array and nearby water tanks provide a self-sustaining water and power supply, while an efficient, slow-combustion wood fire is the main source of heating. 

Much of this project’s success can be attributed to the relationship between FMD and the client, having worked together on multiple prior projects. The practice’s rigorous understanding of their desires and farm operations is reflected in the home’s hardwearing finishes and custom elements, including elevated planters to protect foliage from sheep, and a ‘boot room’ for residents to dust off in before entering.

Fiona says, ‘This project is really every architect’s dream project; amazing site, trusting client and exceptional builder, all built during lockdown!’ 

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