John Wardle’s multi-award-winning house – The Fairhaven House – on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is an inspiring exercise in the treatment of timber. The interior cladding, twists and turns, with origami-like grace to create a sculptural space that is warm and inviting, but that also embraces the view at every point.
Not only did he tailor the form but also the palette of materials used for the house is very much taken from the indigenous trees, plants, scrub and orange and yellow fungi found on the site. Wardle was conscious of creating a controlled and relevant material mix and so choose to clad the building in a green/grey zinc sheet and to line the entire interior with blackbutt – an Australian hardwood.
Bolts of colour reflecting the fungi and the intensity of the sky are introduced in slices – the surprise of a bright orange cupboard interior, a B&B Italia Patricia Urquiola designed sofa in deep yellow, custom-made joinery in the bedrooms and en-suite in aqua blue. These jewel-like flashes are characteristic of Wardle’s playful spirit and provide a counterpoint to the sense of warm enclosure a completely timber-lined space creates.
Outdoor space is important, especially in a house by the beach, where the experience is not confined to merely observing the outlook. The north-facing courtyard is walled on three sides to give protection from prevailing winds and screened from the street by dense vegetation; there is a roof terrace adjacent to the master bedroom facing the view, and a charming, contemplative outdoor seating area off the main living space (hidden behind a heavy curtain wall), which engages with the bush setting.
This in-built flexibility in terms of usage allows for sociability and informality as a large sliding window wall in the kitchen opens up to create a bar and links the indoors with the outdoor BBQ area. There is also the option of complete privacy in either of the other two outdoor spaces.
“Clients that are willing to extend a bridge of trust are very important to our practice. We produced a number of rendered images and models to show various aspects and elevations’, says Wardle. Indeed Paul Carter in his essay – ‘Exaggeration – the Ethics of John Wardle’s Design’, writes of “The see-saw relationship between the fixity of the model and the multiplication of viewpoints, and through lines, drawn on and into it. “ He also notes not only are they functional working models that help design resolution that they are also ‘3-dimensional storyboards bearing the history of thinking’
All images by Richard Powers