Resilient rebuild

Issue 21 Words: Beth Askham Photography: Brendan Finn
Marysville, VIC
  • The weekender for a family of four was originally envisaged as a large double storey residence. However, as planning proceeded, the owners and design team pared back the design to an enlarged studio more suited for short and medium-term holiday accommodation.
  • The house essentially consists of one communal room, bathroom, kitchen and a mezzanine as a sleeping platform.
  • The fireplace – the hinge and anchor of the old house and the only remaining structures after the fire – became the seed for the new house, linking the old with the new.
  • The kitchen and bathroom are tucked in under the mezzanine at the north-west end of the house. Hoop pine lines the ceiling and cabinetry. Recycled red gum was used for the mezzanine ladder and kitchen benchtops.
  • The house’s floor-area-to-glass ratio is about 4 to 1, with the majority of glass facing north for solar gain and smaller window openings facing west, south and east for natural light and ventilation. Openable windows capture different wind directions, allowing cross ventilation.

A committed team find themselves rebuilding a weekender destroyed in the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The outcome is an energy efficient home away from home with a small footprint, a focus on bushfire design principles and strong connections to the bush around it.

Sometimes you get a second chance – and even when you haven’t chosen it – all you can do is step up and make the most of the opportunity.

Jonathan and Jane’s new weekender in Marysville, Victoria, is part of a bold reimagining of the area and a commitment to be part of the new town.

The result is an unobtrusive building that appears effortless and uses simple measures to connect the building and its inhabitants to its environment.

Snuggled next to the state forest and shaded in the winter by tall mountain ash, the block is situated on the north-east ridge of Marysville where it looks down above the town. Jonathan and Jane spend their weekends here with friends and family, enjoying the bush.

The destructive force of the bushfire was shocking and sobering. “[The original double-brick house] was destroyed along with the extensive mature garden,” says one of the project’s architects, Damien Thackray.

“Timber balconies were reduced to a feint ash outline on the ground. Glazing had melted and congealed into eerily beautiful pools and teardrops. Double brick cavity walls had failed, the inner and outer leafs peeling away from one another. Tin roofing sheet had been blasted into the sky, twisted and warped and planted in the ground as mimetic sculpture.”

It was not long after the fires that Jonathan and Jane made the decision to rebuild their weekend home.

They felt it was important to stick by the community that was struggling to rebuild itself. New bushfire design and building regulations, however, meant this project was going to be more difficult than they expected.

The challenge soon became how to meet the new regulations without the rebuild looking like a bunker, a building hunched up in defence against the natural environment.


ShareShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter
Cover of Issue 21
You can read more about Resilient rebuild in Issue 21 of Sanctuary magazine.

Buy it now at our webshop!

Sanctuary: modern green homes is Australia’s premier magazine dedicated to sustainable home design. More...

Subscribe to our newsletter


Designer: Damien Thackray & Steffen Welsch Architects

Builder: Camson Homes

View houses by state