Thinking Globally | Acting Locally - Nicholas Burns has taken this "green" addage and designed a modern residential retreat that: incorporates international ideas, templates low impact construction, has relatively minimal impact on the environment and embraces this spectacular plot.
The Johanna residence sits a few kilometres off the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, up a bush track leading to a gravel turnaround. This porous parking area is the first step into Nicholas's realm of environmentally concious design, allowing the water to soak through in a semi un-constructed area, combats erosion far better than a concrete slab.
Constructed of rammed earth taken in part from the surrounding area the house self regulates in temperature for all but the coldest of days. A super insulated wood burning fire in the centre of the living area tops up on the few days that it is required, whilst for most of the year the 300mm walls and thick floor store daytime heat for night time release. Carefully judged overhangs and windows, shade the rooms from peak summer heat, and allow cooling air to pass.
Arriving at the house you play out a mini script that depicts the notion of a holiday home. A getaway, a release from the constrictive day-to-day life we lead in the city.
Leaving your car you head towards a strong rear wall. From this angle the house appears a small bank or cliff, solid and permanent, with stripes of layers in the rammed earth walls creating cliff like strata. Nearing the house, a courtyard leads you in to a "Burns" play on space and dimensions.
As if entering a cinema through the back corridor, the short courtyard, with its imposing 300mm thick rammed earth walls, contracts to a single passageway and heads to the front door.
The constricting nature of the entrance has you prepared to duck your head and don a helmet and caving lamp. Yet as you pass the front door and round the partitioning wall, you're released into a panorama of views out across Johanna beach and along the coastline. About ten minutes later, you'll realise you're in a wonderful open plan living / dining room.
Nicholas Burns has an affinity for the architecture of Tadao Ando, which he studied for years, admiring as I do, his self taught designs.
Hidden in full view throughout the design of this residence are homages to Ando. Tadao's designs, based of the Tatami mat, 900mm x 1800mm, are all divisible by this measure, leading to a hidden, calming simplicity. Nicholas's dimension is 600mm "so everything has an inherent logic in the space, making it unobtrusive.” Simply furnished, the house allows you to focus on it's surrounds.
A slight twist on a single plane design, the two bedroom wings are set back from the living area to allow 180 degree views. This also allows a raised courtyard to be placed behind the living area. A sheltered area from winds heading up hillside, it also provides an area for BBQs and outdoor dining.
All but one of the four bedrooms soak in the views and sunsets, the fourth, a more reserved room, is windowed to the rear and surrounding bush, an ideal room for private contemplation.
About Nicholas Burns
In the 1990s, Burns left his architecture studies in South Australia to pursue a self-education in philosophy and building crafts, a la Tadao Ando. In 2000, he moved to Singapore, where he is still based, travelling from there through Europe, India, China, South-East Asia and Japan. I think Nicholas's practice really focuses on balancing the three way split, design, clients desires and the environment in which the build sits.
As part of all initial concepts and drafts, Nicholas's practice now encourages all of their clients to offset the carbon footprint of the build with United Nations-Certified carbon credits.
The environment is a strong stakeholder. But as you can see, in no way at the expense of fantastic design.