FIELD OF DREAMS: A SIMPLE RURAL RETREAT FOR ONE
WORKING AND LIVING in New York at the time, the owner bought his new property — on the other side of the world — sight unseen. It would be a further year before his hectic schedule allowed him to travel to Australia and view his purchase first-hand.
Visiting friends in the area 20 years ago he had first been introduced to the a remote corner of the world known as the Monaro plains and had fallen utterly in love. The Monaro’s rich grazing lands and undulating hills — a six-hour-drive from Sydney — would pull at his heart strings until he purchased his own piece of it many years later.
“Even though I was ensconced in my life on the other side of the world this land made an impression on me,” he says. “It is so typically Australian yet it is more than that, it also has a softness which reminds me of the Welsh countryside.”
“A simple and modest building, not unlike a shed, somewhere he could use as a retreat to listen to music, read books and enjoy his art.”
It was only a matter of time before the owner would start plans to build a house on the land so that he could spend more time there.
One of the property’s most impressive drawcards is a huge dam built by The Snowy Mountains Scheme chief engineer William Hudson. It is the beauty of the dam and the surrounding vista that would convince the owner to site the house on a hill directly above it.
The choice of architects for the project was an interesting one. The owner– still living in New York at the time– renewed an acquaintance with Penny Collins, a childhood friend from Sydney. Penny was working for Norman Foster in London and she and her husband, Huw Turner, an architect at the same practice, were delighted to take on the project as an out-of hours commission.
“At the time we would fax drawings to New York– as this was all pre-internet– which now seems so primitive,” remembers Penny. “ Things became much easier when the owner moved to London and we would catch up for dinners and discuss our ideas in depth– which sometimes involved drawing on anything that was handy such as a linen napkin,” she says.
The owner who had been exposed to the world of design from an early age–his father an architect and his mother a fashion designer– had clear thoughts on what he wanted the house to be. Huw remembers the initial brief to be for “a simple and modest building, not unlike a shed, somewhere he could use as a retreat to listen to music, read books and enjoy his art”.
The final design has turned out to be two cubes made from metal and glass with sloping roofs running away from each other. Accommodation consists of one bedroom, a living space, kitchen and bathroom. There was always to be no veranda or exterior detail –the owner didn’t feel the weather was such that you could sit outside that often, preferring to view the countryside through oversized floor- to- ceiling sliding glass doors. The only entranceway is via a ramp, made from industrial-style metal gridding. Walking up it is akin to boarding a boat.
Once inside, the structure is basically one large room divided by a working ‘pod’ that houses the bathroom and kitchen where the two cubes meet.
The bathroom is totally concealed, not dissimilar to a ship’s engine room and the kitchen is a simple galley. All storage is hidden and the only decoration is the artwork and minimal furnishings. Standing in the living room and looking towards the bedroom you see slices of the private space divided by the central pod, the view typical of the building’s planned symmetry.
The finished product has proven to be a successful team effort. The project was managed by Sydney-based architect Ian Collins (Penny’s father), while a Canberra builder, John Fielding of Bellevarde Constructions, was employed to bring the plans to life. The task was completed in 12 weeks and all parties were more than happy.
Since completion the owner has purchased additional land close by and he now runs the property as a working farm. Sheep and cattle are run on the property, with a manager in place to handle the day-to- day operation, as the owner still spends most of his time in Europe.
Regular visits are planned whenever possible although life is a little more complicated for the owner these days with the addition of a wife and two children. A larger family home has been built nearby to accommodate them all happily together – but not too close — the owner still escapes to the peace and tranquillity of his own space where he enjoys nothing more than just taking in the view and retreating from the outside world.
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