Home among the trees
This is an excerpt from an article in Sanctuary magazine issue 19.
A holistic and sensitive environmental design approach defines this new Victorian seaside home on a site steeped in ecological history.
Words Fiona Negrin
Photography Guy Le Page
Barwon Heads is a picture-perfect seaside community 100 kilometres south of Melbourne. Chris and her husband Neville live in a typical tree-lined street, with oneexception: the vacant block next door wasn’t a dumping ground for abandoned cars and beer cans. Instead it was the unlikely home to a towering thicket of stately Moonah trees (melaleuca lanceolata), most of which were as old as Cook’s arrival at Botany Bay.
“We’d lived next door since 1983,” says Neville, who is soon to retire. “This land was vacant, never built on. We used to help maintain it. Six years ago we faced the prospect of a significant development on the site, so we went into defensive mode and bought it.”
Chris, a retired schoolteacher, remembers it as an emotional time. “This block has always been special to us. We look on to it from our place. I remember sitting there feeding my babies and looking over the trees. For someone to come in here and chop all the trees down…” Her voice trails off.
Chris and Neville hired architects Third Ecology to design a sustainable house for them to live in during retirement, with one caveat: don’t compromise the site. To that end, only one mature tree, assessed by a specialist as not viable, and two smaller trees were cleared to make room for the house. Such careful placement of the dwelling ensured that two-thirds of the 900 square metre block has remained bush.
If you’d like to read the rest of this article you can buy this issue here.