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Palette of the landscape

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A modernist home pays tribute to its location by celebrating the colors of nature

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At first glance, the minimalist principal of using commercial materials for modern homes might seem a little incongruous in a stunning natural environment. But when you pay close attention to the ecological benefits and the aesthetic value of steel, glass and aluminium, these materials don't seem out of place after all.

Architect Edward Duc has spent three decades working with highly engineered materials and found in a remote setting, their properties can still surprise him. In the home featured here, he discovered the architectural steel panels not only provide insulation and a clean lined exterior, they also reflect the sky's changing hue.

"As the external coating on the panels is metallic, their color changes throughout the day. The home can appear silver, bronze or purple depending on the location of the sun," Duc says.

Choosing materials that have multiple purposes ensures the best possible use has been made of every facet of the home's construction, he says. The same design ethos is apparent in the home's bold architectural design.

This 60ha property in enjoys uninterrupted views of a ridge dense in native bush. The house has been built upon the brow of a hill, with the roof line following the downward contour of the land.

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The roof's slope enables water collection to fill two 5,000 gallon water tanks located under the house. It is then pumped 30ft to the top of the water tower at the entrance to the home. Released from this height, water acquires enough pressure for ordinary household consumption.

The water tower is not just a practical addition though. Fitted with low-voltage neon lights to illuminate its acrylic cladding, it becomes a beacon at night that can be seen from the main road half a mile away. The tower is fitted with a television aerial and satellite dish for home entertainment.

The house is divided into three distinct sections. There is the double garage and gymnasium, the main living and master suite and there are two fully self-contained guest suites.

"The layout is very simple. It follows the principle of post and beam construction. Should the owners' requirements change, it would be simple to alter the configuration of the house without disturbing the foundations," the architect says.

The main living and master suite wing in the middle of the home takes advantage of the view. Although the living room, dining area and kitchen are connected in an open-plan design, they remain distinct zones. The living and dining areas are divided by a slate partition that incorporates a fireplace and television screen. The kitchen can be screened off by sliding a frosted glass partition across the black granite island.

Two balconies are enclosed with netting as a shield from bugs, harsh sun and rain.

Running along the spine of the home is the gallery which connects the three wings. The gallery's wooden louvered walls are fully adjustable to suit the changes in climatic conditions. In winter the louvres can be closed to maintain the heat, in summer opened to ensure cross-ventilation.

Polished concrete floors contribute to natural temperature control. The roofline is angled to allow the sun's warmth to be absorbed by the floors in the winter but it prevents the sun from entering in summer, thus keeping the floors cool.

"Concrete floors are extremely practical in a rural environment. The owners work outside in the olive grove, vineyard or on the cattle farm and may inadvertently traipse dirt indoors," Duc says.

The interior décor has been designed with a limited palette that echoes the dramatic landscape and the architectural features of the home.

This contained use of color is perhaps best illustrated in the dining room. The purple chairs reflect the hills, the wooden dining table matches the louvres along the gallery, and the table's stainless steel trim ties in the engineered quality of the home's exterior materials.

This synergy with nature, ecology, modernist principals and aesthetic appeal would never have occurred without an excellent working relationship with the clients, Duc says.

"The owner's wanted a home that was casual and functional. This was the position from which we began and all decisions flowed from there."

First published date: 23 August 2004

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Credit List

Architect Edward Duc, Duc Associates, RAIA
Interior designer Kim Hughes Interiors
Flooring Polished concrete
Kitchen countertops Black granite