Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Troppo inspiration

There isn't really an architectural style particular to Gippsland, in fact there's not a particular style that fits anywhere in southern Australia. Historically we have built and lived in houses that were virtually transplanted European or American styles, sometimes with an Australian flourish. I lived in a fabulous Federation era house in McKean Street in North Fitzroy, the cornices all decorated with sprigs of wattle and twigs of eucalypt, the glass panes in the doors etched with similar floral motifs. But while the decorative elements may have reflected the environment in which the house was built (and no doubt echoed the nationalist sentiments of the time), the house itself was cold in the winter, baking hot in the summer and probably more suited to London than Melbourne.

I was born into a suburban brick-veneer house, grew up in an old weatherboard house and have lived in 15 different houses and apartments between leaving home and building a house of my own. Of all those houses only one was designed and built with its environment in mind. This house was in Darwin and it was designed by Troppo Architects - http://www.troppoarchitects.com.au/

Hazeldine house from the street

This was the first of two Hazeldine houses that Troppo built. Essentially it was three separate structures that were linked by walkways and sets of stairs. The back of the 'house' is visible in this photograph, the front opened up onto the golf course: in fact stepping off the front verandah you almost stepped onto the green of the ninth hole. The setting was superb, the golfers worth putting up with. The frill-necked lizards that the golf club used as its emblem were a common and often hilarious sight. We even had a resident goanna.

Goanna, pool & golf course
The main building housed the kitchen, a living space and a mezzanine that I used as my bedroom. The roof was about 20 feet tall, the centre point suspended by an enormous tree trunk that was the abiding feature of the room. All the walls were louvre windows, the kitchen recessed in a pit that extended beneath the mezzanine. To the west of the main building was a pool, and alongside the pool a walkway that led to the bathroom. The shower had no screen but was instead seated down large boulder steps in a recessed space of its own. Again, it was surrounded by louvres - this was not a house for the modest!

Main room on left, pool & bathroom

Along a further walkway were two sets of stairs: down to the toilet and laundry; up to three bedrooms which all opened up to the balcony visible on the left of the top photograph. None of the rooms were air conditioned - almost unheard of in new houses in the top end. Instead they used tall ceilings, through-ventilation via lots of windows and ceiling fans.

Hazeldine house from the golf course

I simply loved living in this house. If I had had unlimited funds I'd have stayed living there, but its design prohibited sharing with housemates and it was too expensive to rent alone. So, I left the Troppo house behind when my then-girlfriend and I broke up, but I never forgot the lessons I'd learned from living in that space, those spaces.

Tropical feast - watermelon, pawpaw, Bloody Marys & a cuppa

Main room - complete with tree trunk

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