Tree Change

04 April 2012
This house at Gidgegannup, Western Australia uses LYSAGHT CUSTOM ORB® made from ZINCALUME® steel for the cladding, roofing, and soffits to create a sophisticated version of the farming aesthetic of sheds and other buildings. Photograph: Patrick Bingham-Hall

This house at Gidgegannup, Western Australia uses LYSAGHT CUSTOM ORB® made from ZINCALUME® steel for the cladding, roofing, and soffits to create a sophisticated version of the farming aesthetic of sheds and other buildings. Photograph: Patrick Bingham-Hall

Location: Gidgegannup, Western Australia
Country: Australia
Architect: Architect Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects
Photography: Patrick Bingham-Hall
Products Used:  LYSAGHT CUSTOM ORB®
ZINCALUME® steel

Having undertaken the successful redevelopment of Perth Zoo's Orangutan enclosure, Adrian Iredale was confident that he could imbue a family's new Perth house with similar qualities.

When the Cole family's search for an architect revealed that Iredale had collaborated in the design of the Perth Zoo Orangutan Enclosure, which they had admired during a visit to the zoo, they decided to follow their instincts and appoint him as their architect.

"Sue Cole said, 'I love the Perth Zoo Orang-utan Enclosure and would love a house that enables us to live like that'," Iredale recalls. "They wanted to hover above the ground and assimilate with the trees."

The clients owned a farm at Gidgegannup, 40 kilometres north-east of Perth. Iredale selected a site that would "String the house between a big bunch of trees and two isolated trees, like a line in the landscape".

"We wanted to definitely treat the landscape as a piece of art," Iredale says. "We didn't want them to forget to see the view." The master bedroom contains an ensuite with a bath that takes full advantage of the views, and a cantilevered balcony which juts out into the foliage. "It gives them a sense of living in the trees," Iredale says. "They can lie in bed and look out over landscape."

The main design challenge arose from the fact that the house is elevated only 30cm off the ground at its south-west extremity, and five metres above grade at the eastern end. "Steel was fundamental to solving that problem, because we wanted to minimise the amount that we touched the ground and minimise disturbance to the landscape," Iredale says. "We only cut the ground in one spot, and that fill was used around the pool.

"Having determined that, we faced the difficulty of building it," he adds. "We used a series of SHS columns and large beams, and then the purlins went on, all of which were pre-made to size using hot-dipped galvanised steel to minimise maintenance." The steel frame was prefabricated using galvanised steel SHS columns, UB beams and C purlins, and delivered to the site ready for installation.

"In terms of how to achieve a house on a sloping site, this is simple and economic, but it manipulates the contours with dramatic effect," Iredale says.

For the cladding, roofing, and soffits, the architects chose LYSAGHT CUSTOM ORB® made from ZINCALUME® steel to create "a sophisticated version of the farming aesthetic of sheds and other buildings," Iredale explains. "We were not trying to create a ‘city slickness', we were trying to create something that is appropriate for that place. We wanted to value and emphasise the very things that make that place unique, by making a house that appears like an abstract line in the landscape.

"I love the manner in which it reveals the surrounding landscape and the delicate quality that comes out of the use of steel," Iredale adds. "It really is like a line in the landscape that hovers in the junction between earth and sky."

The Coles are happiest with the way the house affords them the treetop lifestyle they sought, just like those orangutans who are so content with their new steel and timber nesting platforms at Perth Zoo.

This house at Gidgegannup, Western Australia uses LYSAGHT CUSTOM ORB® made from ZINCALUME® steel for the cladding, roofing, and soffits to create a sophisticated version of the farming aesthetic of sheds and other buildings. This house at Gidgegannup, Western Australia uses LYSAGHT CUSTOM ORB® made from ZINCALUME® steel for the cladding, roofing, and soffits to create a sophisticated version of the farming aesthetic of sheds and other buildings.