Now in its sixth year, the Houses Awards celebrate the best in Australian residential design. The 2016 winners provide a unique insight into the zeitgeist of contemporary architecture. The awards fall into ten categories, with the overall winner named Australian Home of the Year.
The Fairfield House by Kennedy Nolan (in collaboration with Sam Cox Landscape) features a dramatic natural swimming pool in a native landscape. It is a south-facing, steep bush block on the banks of the Yarra River in the inner-city suburb of Fairfield. A number of external native garden spaces are strung along a winding path that leads to the banks of the river, feeling like an extension of the Yarra River corridor.
It won two awards: Outdoor and Sustainability, and below we reproduce the judges’ citations for each.
A sequence of small and robust interventions connects house to garden to river, allowing the occupant to reconnect to the place in a way that has long been lost.
A bushland is recreated in a place that is characteristically a cottage garden – one can wander, bathe, warm by the fire and float above the river. These interventions are more primal than manicured; they speak of permanence and create a ritualistic existence in a new yet old world, on the doorstep to a big city.
The complete rehabilitation of the site immerses one into a place that is increasingly rarely experienced, a place that typically requires effort to visit. Here, however, it becomes part of one’s everyday existence and is characterised by exactness, restraint and maturity.
There are lessons in this project that are rarely practiced. These lessons, if more readily implemented, would change the nature of our relationship to and appreciation of place.
Great effort and restraint has been practiced in this outdoor environment, from the complete regeneration and rehabilitation of a bushland setting with endemic species to the experimental bio-pool that required extensive research and commitment.
A microclimate is created through a sensitive hand, demonstrating that a small outdoor project can impact significantly on the natural environment. This project is an exemplar for all the community – it advocates an approach to design and the environment that is accessible and does not rely on high technology, and it embraces an attitude that is distinctly Australian. With a sensitive hand and mind we can have our piece of nature, preserve it and share it with others.
The riverbanks have been stabilised and the fauna returned to a familiar and safe environment. The garden is watered naturally when it rains and the pool is serviced by solar tubing and power offset by photovoltaic cells.
This is a rare project that generously offers an authentic approach to celebrating and preserving our natural ecosystem. It achieves this to the benefit of surrounding properties that now enjoy a small fragment of the Australian bush.
The Fairfield House
Design Practice: Kennedy Nolan in collaboration with Sam Cox Landscape
Photography: Derek Swalwell