A house designed with concrete at its centre
The Balonne River House is a five bedroom home situated on a long, narrow five acre block near the town of St George. Concrete acts as more than the anchor material for this house; it literally creates the heart of the building. The structure is divided into three wings which are braced at each end by solid concrete walls. They all meet at the centre with a black concrete bench top, polished to reveal aggregate with flecks of local colour. This creates a focal spot linking all the wings and acts as a gathering space within the centre of the home.
The concrete applications and the rest of the design came out of a desire to create ‘something different' within its surroundings. As architect Mark Trotter explains, the objective was to create a house with a very local feel, 'something uniquely St George'. The clients wanted two separate things, one something modern and sleek while the other a more traditional Queenslander style, rich with timber. The result includes modern polished concrete butted against mixed hardwood with various steel elements.
The house is sited on a high rural block, ensuring the design captures the northern orientation, cool summer breezes, panoramic river views, while also avoiding recent flood levels. To maximise access to natural daylight and cross ventilation, the massing of the house is divided into the master, living and bedroom wings; each is only a single room depth and allows the users to modify the amount of opening to both light and breeze.
Sitting at 45 degrees to the river, the house manages to capture the views whilst minimising solar heat gain during the hot summer by having the smallest faces of the building facing west. The solid coloured concrete in situ anchor the lightweight elements of the wings and the textured formwork mimics the surrounding red soil. Sustainable aspects include harvesting all of its own water and processing of waste. The forms of the building are kept low, the roof opening up towards the river with large overhangs all around. Additionally, the architects clad breezeways in polycarbonate sheeting to create an interesting transitional link between each wing.