My interview with Timothy Hill in the ‘D’ House in Brisbane’s New Farm, didn’t get off to a good start – through no fault of Timothy’s. Ever stretched for time I had been re-reading my notes on the progressive architectural company Donovan Hill, on the flight from Sydney to Brisbane. I had written my long list of questions and felt quite prepared. I had a bit of time to kill at the airport so had a coffee, answered some emails and then grabbed a cab to the city. When the taxi pulled up there was no mistaking the house – the distinctive timber screen, the irregular façade like a ‘garden wall’ and the grove of tuckeroo trees leading to the gated entrance. It was then I discovered – I HAD LEFT ALL MY NOTES AT THE AIRPORT. This is not how you wish to start an interview with an intelligent and discerning architect. I should not have worried. The house is a beautiful experience, questions came readily, and Timothy was most articulate about his work. The concepts are fascinating and he explained them clearly to a lay person like myself.
Some things are embedded in architectural history such as the Luytens concept of over-sequencing the approach to a house to enlarge its scale. He acknowledges that it was a ‘dud site with no view so we needed to ramp up the value of what is actually outside’. This house is different from every other project in the book because it is not seeking privacy – rather it seeks to engage with the streetscape through the use of a generous horizontal window and its proximity to the road.
This corner of the main living space says much about the Donovan Hill ‘D’ House. The furniture is built-in and designed with practicality in mind – you can easily sweep under it, use it as an extra bed, bring a dining table close and use it as bench seating. It also has the effect of creating lightness and transparency as you see through to the courtyard beyond. Hill also custom designed the copper wall light situated above the window.
This view into the kitchen captures the soft finish of the set plaster. Many of the materials are honest and unadorned and the shaft of natural lights highlights the ‘wacky patina’ of the wall. The skylight is placed above the threshold of where decisions have to be made and also allows tantalising glimpses of the sky.