Morris House

Inverloch, Victoria, Australia

The coastal region in Victoria that is east of Melbourne is a rugged landscape that is windswept and battered by the Southern Ocean. The site for this project runs from a cliff top road uphill to the north and has no natural features to protect it from the ferocity of the ocean. At the same time the views to the water are spectacular – past the coastal town of Inverloch to the lighthouse at Venus Bay and beyond to the pounding sea.  In these circumstances my first reaction was to make a nurturing and protective building that hugged the earth and provided comfort to the occupants and my early sketches, as a result of this reaction, were constantly of a shell-like structure. In the end I chose a cycloid vault similar to that used by Louis Kahn in the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth in Texas. The concrete shell is wrapped in a recycled timber screen that opens to the south to access the view. Equally when this screen closes it reads as an act of defiance by the occupant towards the elements. The plan is similar to our earlier Glenburn House in that it is a series of pavilions linked by covered outdoor spaces. An elongated stone hearth connects a series of fireplaces and becomes an implied passageway in what is ostensibly an open plan. The north side of the house is buried into the slope and the building benefits from the insulating effect of the earth. Elsewhere on the site a separate power plant acts as a hub for solar and wind power and this combined with rainwater harvesting and vegetable and fruit growing makes for a highly sustainable and self sufficient house. My interest in vaulted structures as represented in this project has become a recurring theme in other buildings my office is working on at present.