Bellbird Retreat


Bellbird Retreat is a weekend escape to a stunning rural setting. The modest dwelling sits in a pristine bushland reserve and encourages a dialogue between human-made and natural environments. Connection to the natural environment is embraced through building form and materials, climatic sensitivity, and the framing of views. On a site susceptible to devastating bushfires, Bellbird Retreat proposes a new model for fire-resistant house design.

The building was constructed as a kit of parts with readily available materials or bespoke components that minimised onsite fabrication. A winding track provides brief glimpses from afar, before water-tanks frame the south-west façade and entry. Sheltering the building from wind, sun and fire, three fortress-like pivoting brick blades tie the dwelling to the earth and are crowned by a pleated steel roof, the form of which responds to topographical features.

The natural qualities inherent in the selected building materials allow the building to sit boldly, carved into the landscape. The positioning of the dwelling maximises the mountain saddle for recreational use, enticing the occupant through sliding corner doors that peel back in both directions. The concrete floor slab cantilevers to provide an impromptu seat and discourages wildlife accessibility of interior spaces.

Internally, a restrained monochromatic material palette utilises hoop pine and continues the exterior brickwork to anchor the building and create gravitas with an air of theatrical moodiness. The glazed façades provide a counterpoint between the solidity of the austere blade walls and the openness to the beautifully wild landscape. In line with the client’s wish for a place of contemplation and rejuvenation, Steendyk used rural sensibilities and simple tectonics to balance the building’s composition, creating open yet protected spaces. Additionally the client commissioned the design of the bespoke furniture and lighting pieces, which were fabricated by Embassy Living.

Photography: Christopher Frederick Jones.