The Federal House is a vessel for its owners to both inhabit and enable the experience of place and time – a sanctuary. The project nestles into the folding hills of its hinterland site in northern NSW, acting as an experiential container of place and a conditioning object, while being consciously aware of its outsider status within the traditional ownership and legacy of this landscape.
From afar the building is recessive, a shadow within the vast landscape. On arrival the project’s fifth façade – the roof – comes into sharp relief, a stark object purposefully foreign to its Bundjalung country landscape and the deep timeframe of the Indigenous heritage of site. On closer inspection, a highly textural outer skin of thick timber battens contrasts against the precise form. The design language is a reverberation of the settler colonial homestead typology, seen most vividly in the verandah DNA. The tightly controlled envelope allows for modestly sized living and bedrooms to expand into a covered outdoor living space.
Anchoring the project beneath the upper platform is a subterranean pool, linked to a planted void in the heart of the home. Descending to the pool void creates a sense of interiority, with a heavy, grounding mass enveloping the senses. The mirrored horizon at the end of the pool draws one to its edge, and back to the garden. The cavernous volume is more akin to a freshwater swimming hole than a classic lap pool.
Federal House expresses an honest understanding of shelter. With no air-conditioning, all spaces are naturally cooled with cross ventilation, and cool air is drawn from the pool’s surface, through the cloister fern garden and into the upper living spaces.
The owners desired a home-as-sanctuary environment, an elemental place of respite from a high-pressure professional life. Through the prospect and refuge relationship to its site, the home provides an intimate proximity to the hillside, forest and grassland to the rear of the site, while framing a panoramic gaze across the distant horizon from deep within.
Furniture: Fogia, Loom Rugs, Oeuffice, Liam Mugavin, Addition Studio, Hay, Sarah Ellison Studio. Lighting: Lambert & Fils, Viabizzuno, Rubn. Lighting: Buster & Punch. Fittings & Fixtures: Fisher & Paykel, Abey, Miele, Rogerseller, Agape.
Photography: Ben Hosking