Open House Hobart 2021, Day 2: Aotea House
After our visit to Esmond Dorney’s 1958 Butterfly House, we ventured deeper into Sandy Bay to find a house that was a complete contrast, at least on the surface.
This was Aotea House, designed by Britten Pace in 2020. This house was only open for two tours so we were very fortunate to be able to see it. It’s a three level concrete building on a super steep site at the top end of Sandy Bay.
Open House Hobart tells us
A faceted monolithic concrete form punctuated by panel joints and openings, Aotea House faced challenging site conditions and the design muse of a commanding white gum.
Rather than provide a continuous panorama allied to a homogeneous kitchen/living/dining, the vertical program presented an opportunity to create smaller distinct spaces within a larger volume. These intimate spaces were designed as an escape for family members with foreground relief from the panoramic views of the living room.
The plan is an irregular pentagon stacked over three modest floor plates, with each narrowing and framing views of foliage and close bushland or opening to sweeping views of the Derwent and Southern Midlands. And there are only two right angles in the entire house!
The white gum creates a contiguous thread, cohabiting occupants with rosellas feeding in its leafy canopy, then descending past the striking white trunk of the understory to the forest floor below.Open House Hobart Website
It’s a fascinating residence.
Although it’s more than 60 years older than the Dorney House, I think the concept of making the garden part of the house that Esmond described is a feature here too, with the huge white gum being incorporated into the views from every level of the house.
The owners told us that they didn’t want to live in a concrete box and went to great trouble to make sure the house didn’t become one. There are only two right angles in the house so, as you might imagine, finding furniture to fit has been challenging.
It has huge windows that had to be commercial grade because of the size, and the logistics of installing them sounds incredibly complex. There’s a massive curved external wall that made me think of the Gordon Dam, but is actually based on a mould from an industrial water tank.
The owners explained that they wanted open plan areas where the whole family could be together, as well as little nooks where people could escape by themselves. The result is a very open space, where the vertical elements dominate, with cleverly placed hiding places that I’m sure the kids (and the adults!) would love.
It’s a beautiful structure, with the combination of concrete and timber working really well together.
And the views are fabulous.