The contemporary home in an 'otherworldly' landscape

LIFE ON MARS: A restrained modernist design within an alien-like landscape transports its owners deep into the natural surrounds from the comfort of their home. PHOTOS: DOUGLAS MARK BLACK
LIFE ON MARS: A restrained modernist design within an alien-like landscape transports its owners deep into the natural surrounds from the comfort of their home. PHOTOS: DOUGLAS MARK BLACK

Perched on a granite outcrop of a rolling mountain range, sits a steel and glass box - a restrained contemporary home designed to transport its owners deep into the "otherworldly" landscape that surrounds.

The project was a display of restrained contemporary design by architect and designer Mark Aronson of MAArchitects.

Built upon the bones of an existing brick and concrete 1970s dwelling near Darlington on the Perth Darling Range, the extension project required careful consideration of placement within the natural environment.

"The architectural solution was to extend north into the bush and allow for breakout spaces for outside living to occur either side," Aronson said.

The result was a design that opens out towards the weather, taking the owners straight into the landscape.

"The glass frames a view of the vegetation and rocks beyond, and establishes a relationship between the house and landscape setting that previously did not exist," Aronson said.

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An external bench seat in cement finish forms the garden edge. In the morning and evening birdlife surrounds the home, together with the sounds of insects at dusk.

"The intervention quietly lands a modernist box in a foreign, almost alien, landscape. It feels like a long way from anywhere.

"The lights of the city below are only visible in the distance, still some sense of "otherworldly" is here, particularly at dawn when the sky is cold," Aronson said.

"Within this space, a well-designed interior is a sharp contrast to the primality of the landscape outside.

"This is not a spaceship, but feels like a functional and refined interior HQ," he said.

The interior cabinet work design evolved through a close working relationship with Simone Meraldi, an Italian joiner.

Plywood edge and grey laminate, reflect a simple and reduced interior palette.

The table was commissioned by local Furniture-maker Nathan Day, the plan had been to provide a new family space where the owners would be able to cook and sit while being able to keep an eye on a newborn.

The building integrates natural good ventilation principles, with breezeway louvres flushing out the warm air overnight with cooling easterly breezes and insect screens.

"Light and shade are balanced between old and new, achieved in an intelligent architectural solution. The project is successful in combining the interior spatiality with exterior rooms and views," Aronson said.

"These ancillary spaces support an indoor-outdoor lifestyle, where an awareness of the seasons is played out between the landscape and the house.

"In summer, these are entertainment decks where music and cooking happen. In winter the kitchen space is filled with light, or the rain plays out from the comfort of within."

The extension was fundamentally constructed in timber by Hans Donni, a Swiss builder, whose careful attention to detail made the project a reality, Aronson said.

The site sits within a bushfire zone, but eliminated some of the risks by being built away from the upward slope, so the team succeeded in achieving open glazed areas where otherwise not possible. However, construction access to this site was not easy, Aronson said.

"Lightweight construction was chosen for practical reasons - avoiding footings in granite, speed and the inherent sustainability of wood," he said.

"Cement sheet was used where required for protection to the frames. High levels of insulation in walls and glass selection were integrated to achieve optimum performance for the client."

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