Forking out...

Friday 16 Dec 2011

Cabin in the Highlands formed from tree forks sourced from forest floors

The project is a small cabin in Victoria's Central Highlands, on a site containing a beautiful forest of extant Stringybark woodland. The clients are medical practitioners/academics with a daughter attending university. The brief included a living area, small kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. They asked for a small forest cabin in which they could practice choral signing. They longed for the isolation of the forest and the closeness of wild birds.

The clients had visited Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. Their fondness for the organic structures of Gaudi's great cathedral and the interest of Paul Morgan Architect's office in the forms of the bleached bones of kangaroos and sheep conflated in the development of the tree forks, or bifurcations in the project. When considering these bones, the architects were particularly interested in the thickening of the joints, required to carry additional loads, and how these structures could be interpreted with found timber.

This project has evolved the building type, the small weekender, by answering a simple question: how does one go into a forest and use the forms of the ecology to build a house?

This interest transitioned into harnessing the natural load-bearing capacity of timber found in the region by utilising found tree forks. Tree forks, or bifurcations, were sourced from forest floors and farmland and, due to their age, were pre-seasoned. They were joined to straight columns with internal metal plates by a sculptor. An internal column with radiating beams completed the structure, the complete triangulated truss system attaining great inherent strength.

Stringybark trees were removed from the site to make way for the new house. A mobile milling machine was delivered to site, and the lining boards were milled, cured on site, and then fixed internally. The figuration of the boards in the living room has great character, and relates to the experience of being in the forest. It also results in a minimal carbon footprint for the sourcing and installing of the lining boards.

The design sought to achieve an almost transparent relationship with the surrounding forest, achieved through an eco-morphological transformation of ground fuel into structure.

Project Team: Paul Morgan, Jen Wood, Karla Martinez, Andrej Vodstrcil, Jo. Scicluna

Engineer: Peter Felicetti

Bifurcations: Mike Conole

Builder: Karsten Poulsen

Landscape architect: Cath Stutterheim, SAALA

Acoustic consultant: Neil McLachlan

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