All that glisters, in some of our famous rural gold rush towns these days, is not necessarily the shiny metal.
Modern architecture, with its own elegant meditation on place and time, is starting to take a foothold among the old diggings.
Take this house sitting high on a ridge line in Castlemaine. Like a ship that’s slipped its moorings and has come to terrestrial rest up here, it stands out in its locale, but it’s also the shape of things to come.
Designed by local firm Times Two Architects, the house is both visible and visionary. Its loft and lean over the town could have felt ostentatious and perhaps a little haughty but, by hunkering much of the timber and stone structure into the ridge, it becomes a part of the local landscape in a way no period building, no matter how impressive, could ever be.
”It’s about the landscape grabbing the building,” architect Michelle Black says. ”About connection and merging.”
Moving from the inner city, artists Lyndell Brown and Charles Green wanted a studio and home. They wanted the two to have their own space but also be connected to the life of the other. The most crucial part of the brief, however, was memory.
Mr Green grew up in Castlemaine, on this very street. Memory and country were the fabric that informed the design here. ”Charles always dreamt of a having a house on this ridge line,” Ms Brown says. ”The views here are really beautiful; you can see across a large part of the town to the hills. To be able to see them, have them around us, was really important.”
While the house itself – with a fall on site of 4.25 metres – looks a beautifully coherent linear construction on its southern side, the northern edge, with its deep-blue facade and more open design aesthetic, tells a different story.
Here you can see what the bones of the house look like. it’s the vaguely traditional, more accessible view than the closed, protective timber of the front and south.
Where the exterior is contained, almost enigmatic, the interiors unfold and invite, the progression from one section to the next organic and natural.
”The different landscapes appear as you move through and the environment changes,” Black says. ”The house facilitates changes in mood, and Charles and Lyndell enjoy that sense of ritual. The change in levels, the unfolding of spaces articulates that idea.”
The house comes to life through its progression from private space to public. The bedroom wing at the back is almost subterranean, the massive excavation here allowing this space, particularly the main bedroom, to nestle next to the earth while still affording views from a high window and the magnificent floor-level pane that looks onto a courtyard.
As the design moves forward, spaces expand. Beyond the main bedroom an open, gallery-like hallway moves you along the north side of the building, introducing more light and colour, the deep indigo of the north facade bleeding into the front of the passage.
Bluestone floors that line the hall give way to timber treads running through the ”floating” middle section of the house. The sense of being in the environment is again underscored.
The front section is a particularly crisp, measured affair with an acreage of white walls so the artists can change their interior gallery.
The exterior gallery – the town of Castlemaine and beyond – provides postcards via the thin line of windows that runs along the living room wall. Memories are made of this.
This section of the house is the one that most reflects that ship-like feel of the exterior. The kitchen is set high to preside over the dining and living areas below.
It’s a stunning collection of spaces that seem to run down into the views. Display units, columns and even something as prosaic but cleverly inserted as the kitchen rangehood provide a depth and delineation.
Stairs below take you to the entry foyer and then across to the studio. This sits caught by both the ridge line and the house above, to make that harmonious connection.
”It’s very much about the relationship between inside and out here,” Black says. ”The stone sits on the earth, the timber section up amongst the landscape, designed to eventually weather and grey and melt into it.”
An enormous stacked rock wall completes the communion between site and house. Sitting along the north side, it rises up to articulate both the physical nature of this project as well as its emotional, personal aspects. The rocks were largely excavated on site and they form the foundation for the garden and terraces above.
This beautiful house should become a feature of the town, informed by a view to the future of the built environment here but also imbued with the ephemera of memory, both sitting solidly together on Castlemaine rock.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.