The geology and landscape of edges, cliffs, caves, and ponds of the Blue Mountains and the valley form inspired the design. The building is designed for passive solar performance. It unfolds is a last step in a series of landscape spaces from the valley to the verandah.
The owner and I shared an admiration for the early timber and corrugated iron buildings of the Blue Mountains and wanted to continue this Australian pallet with high passive solar performance and functional internal space.
The Leura house is sketched out in sedimentary compressed sandstone walls. It uses a Japanese method called 'discontinuous unity' brought to light in the 1940’s by Japanese architects Yoshizaka and Sakakura for the incomplete separation of spaces from one another. This ‘incompleteness’ of space, interior and exterior, permits the user to fill in the gaps with the act of dwelling and activity, a kind of liberation for the user by an un-prescribing, open-ended architecture. Physically it means no thresholds and doors are hidden and making open-ended rooms. Walls aren't wholly devoted to enclosing space but to create pauses in a larger journey.
The materials are limited in number and low embodied energy. The ‘rammed sandstone’ walls are crushed sandstone with 10% cement compacted into forms with chips of iron stone and quartz.
The house is designed for the owners, their children, grand children and friends. The loft is designed to sleep 12 grandchildren with boys and girls on separate sides.
The intention is to address warmth/cooling, ventilation and acoustics with simple passive methods backed up by sustainable [hydronic] heating/cooling. Aesthetic solutions like plywood ceiling strip panels work also for acoustic performance. The house produces its own power and water. 20 PV panels producing .5kw each/day in Leura are installed and a 100,000lt water tank is built under the bedroom wing.
The garden and landscape are most important so the journey along the edges of the building permit varying places to experience the mountain valley.
About James Stockwell Architect
James Stockwell Architect is based in Sydney. Projects are predominantly residential in landscape settings and have included apartments. The practice is also currently documenting a purpose built preschool at Leura in the Blue Mountains.
Buildings are in progress in locations around New South Wales and in Western Australia.