Glenburn, Victoria, Australia

Record Houses 2008

Glenburn House H16 Maltman Bungalows Palmyra House The Rolling Huts Wall House Dairy House Nora House VH r-10 gHouse

Eighty percent of Australians live within 80 miles of the sea; 50 percent of the country’s houses sit less than 8 miles from a beach. When Sean Godsell Architects began its latest experiment with an ecofriendly, rectangular residential form, the Glenburn House, it naturally built a first prototype on the coast. The precursor to this scheme, the St. Andrews Beach House, located on a peninsula south of Melbourne, is raised up on stilts above the dunes, oriented at right angles to the sea, and acts as a telescope to the horizon, where sky and ocean meet.
Glenburn House

Half of Australian houses sit within 8 miles of a beach. The Glenburn House reverses the house/water relationship, looking like a ship slicing through swells of earth.

At Glenburn, a rural area 90 minutes northeast of Melbourne, the relationship between the house and the water is reinterpreted. The box is presented as a ship slicing through swells of earth. Instead of facing water, here the house’s long, northeastern flank provides views from the living areas and the guest room to the distant heights of Australia’s Great Dividing Range—the mountains that separate the populated eastern littoral from the desert interior of the island continent.

In contrast to the house’s straightforward shape, a looping, picturesque arrival route from the Melba Highway (named for a 19th-century opera star from Melbourne, Dame Nellie Melba) leads you to the building through a valley to the northeast of the site. Viewed from a distance, the rust-red steel box looks huge as it breasts the slopes. The winding road, however, leads to high ground behind the house, where, down a long gully, you see the volume’s midsection opening to the southwest. Parking the car, the house has remarkably shrunk to the size of a two-car garage.

You can enter the house through the garage via a mudroom, or stride along the northeastern front to the formal entry placed midway along the box. This entrance cuts through the plan along a central axis and leads to another opening, which allows access to that long gully earlier glimpsed. Inside, the program of the residence should be simple—the living, dining, sleeping, and bathing areas are meted out within a rectangle—and yet, much as the procession to the house plays with your perception, the interior is equally surprising.