Sophisticated quarters for horses, and humans
By Trisha Croaker
Published July 3rd, 2016.
Without question, architecture and architects have a responsibility to continue to investigate and explore innovative new building models, typologies, forms and materials – to challenge preconceptions, to stretch boundaries and limitations and long-held beliefs of what’s appropriate or acceptable.
Happily, a powerfully sculptural and deeply evocative house-cum-stables in the Snowy Mountains was rewarded for doing just that at the 2016 NSW Architecture Awards on Friday night – and for redefining the Australian farm shed in the process.
The Crackenback Stables, designed by Rob Brown, of Casey Brown Architecture, was awarded the Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture and a commendation for residential architecture, with the jury describing it as “creatively reinterpreting the genre of the corrugated iron shed”.
After building architect-designed, award-winning homes for decades, owner and Bellevard Constructions founder John Fielding requested a “High Country” home with the potential to win awards of its own. It should include an apartment for himself and partner, one for his farm manager, stables for five horses and a machinery shed. It should feature affordable materials ”beautifully built”.
Like the landscape in which it sits, the building should be rugged and robust, speaking of his love of the Snowy Mountains and commitment to return the site to native bush.
The tough, unrelenting nature of the site and High Country climate was key. Any building must deal sensitively with a unique forested landscape of white gum and black sallee, a place of harsh extremes: temperatures ranging from minus 10 to 30 degrees Celsius; strong, howling winds; snow loads; and potential bushfire.
Casey Brown’s solution was to take a much-loved Australian building typology, the classic pragmatic corrugated iron shed, and give it “new life and refinement”.
“The stables are really a couple of sheds, but ‘detailed sheds’ in which every part of the building, every junction and corner is extremely resolved,” Brown says.
He’s being modest. This is a remarkably, immaculately detailed building taking the farm shed to a new level.
First impressions are of the powerfully sculptural southern facade and three key elements making a finely balanced whole: a two-storey trapezoidal form to the west and smaller, single-storey form to the east, backs turned to the harsh weather and united by a single unifying, cascading roof and dramatic view-framing central arrival portal-cum-carport.
The larger two-storey ”shed” houses Fielding’s beloved horses below and people above, in a minimalist and symmetrical two-bedroom apartment opening visually to the north through an enclosed verandah.
Balancing this, the one-bedroom smaller ”shed” to the east accommodates the farm manager (again, with spaces open to the north and here to the east also), woodpile and wood-fired boiler room – affording constant hydronic underfloor heating for both humans and pampered ponies.
Along with its dramatically carved form, this elegant shed is defined by its simple, striking materiality. Externally, it appears again as three sympathetically connected elements speaking of the landscape in which it sits: concrete slabs earthing it; richly ochred weathered steel anchoring it (lining the portal and wrapping the base of both sheds); and a silvery protective skin of corrugated galvanised iron “wrapped in a continuous surface up the walls of the building, and over the roof” to hold it firm against the forces of nature.
As Brown says: “The durable materials will endure for years to come, becoming a part of the bushland in which it resides”. Just as all great Australian bush sheds should.