A unique house design that's on the rise

UNEARTHED: Creating the appearance of rising from the ground below, The Buxton house was designed by architect Martin Rubenstein. Photos by Ernesto Arriagada. Produced with BowerBird.
UNEARTHED: Creating the appearance of rising from the ground below, The Buxton house was designed by architect Martin Rubenstein. Photos by Ernesto Arriagada. Produced with BowerBird.

The Buxton house is a bush retreat overlooking Victoria's Black Range State Forest. According to architect Martin Rubenstein, the brief was to design a house for a weekend getaway on a 20 hectare property near the foot of the Cathedral Range State Park, just outside the town of Buxton. The house had to respond to the site, be simple to construct, inexpensive to build and efficient to run.

The diverse landscape and topography were obvious challenges, given the ridge lines, valleys with ephemeral water courses, clusters of native vegetation and cleared grazing land that encompassed the site. According to Rubenstein, it was important to design the new building to protect and enhance this unique and beautiful natural landscape.

The house is designed as a single level in an elevated position, with the back slightly cut into a hill. This allows the front of the house to provide unfettered access outside, with a strong visual connection to the land from inside.

The budget was tight, so the house is relatively compact; at just under 180 square metres, it includes an open plan living/dining/kitchen space, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, laundry and storage. The spatial arrangement and constant visual connection to the outside however, make the house feel much bigger.

The entire design revolves around the idea of simple living. Rubenstein says he enjoyed integrating some informal ideas, such as the utilitarian kitchen that's designed like a traditional farmhouse kitchen.

Family activity and kitchen work are integrated in one spacious room, with a huge dining table in the middle. This open spatial arrangement is followed through in open and continuous cantilevered wall shelves that flow uninterrupted throughout the entire living space.

Every room has a view out to the landscape. There are spaces designed for late evening sun, or sunny spots in the morning so you can track the light throughout the day. Winter sun can be enjoyed thanks to a large open plan glass living, dining and kitchen area to the north, east and west. This area is open to the views and centred spatially around a three-sided glass firebox.

The house is defined by its large and deep overhanging roof, designed to provide shade and protection from the elements. The roof is constructed of a grid of deep laminated veneer lumber beams, exposed and expressed in the ceiling. The simple, restrained detailing and a palette of warm internal materials gives the house a calm and relaxed feel.

The range of materials was kept to a minimum and includes timber windows and joinery, sustainably sourced plywood ceiling panels, exposed and laminated timber beams, and concrete floors with locally sourced river rock aggregate and sand.

The house has internal and external natural lime hard plaster walls with a rendered finish to create a unique, smooth and slightly imperfect patina that suits the simplicity of the house design, and reflects the beauty of the natural landscape.