The design of the Bruny Island Cabin responds to our client’s desire for a retreat, a place of renewal where she can escape the high stress of her busy work life and engage in simple pleasures of reading, playing violin, star gazing. The cabin creates a well-equipped shelter, allowing her to spend time on her beloved 99 acres of land.
Born in Taiwan, she spent her childhood in traditional Japanese houses (built during occupation). Out of this grew a love for highly crafted minimalist design. Our brief was to capture that and design a building as a piece of furniture with everything she needs built in. The only furniture allowed was a low table and mattress on the sleeping loft. The site is completely off grid, and as such the cabin collects its own rainwater, is powered by photovoltaics and heated by a woodfire oven, while gas provides hot water and cooktop cooking.
The views to the north are unsettling, with tall dense forest always in dark shadow, a 30m high impenetrable silhouette. However, long expansive views are to the south, so the cabin opens onto both an east and west facing deck, capturing morning and afternoon sun while still affording these expansive views. A high roof allows solar panels and a skylight to catch sun from over the trees to the North.
The external materials comply with the Bushfire Attack Level of 19. Bushfire resisting timber cladding is low and within reach, not just for maintenance, but also where the building is likely to be experienced up close providing texture and warmth to the touch. Zincalume metal cladding is used elsewhere, catching and reflecting the everchanging light, while also referencing the rural vernacular and agricultural history of the area.
Internally, light coloured timber walls, floor and ceiling create a warm cosy sense of enclosure, referencing not only Japanese architecture, but remote wilderness cabins from all over the world – creating a real sense of ‘otherness’ and escape.
The entrance pergola creates storage for gas bottle and firewood, as well as a screen for cars, but more than this, it creates a threshold from everyday life. Along with the freestanding pergola, the use of underground water tanks allows the cabin to sit as an object in the landscape, uncluttered.
A formal front door creates a further sense of arrival and reserves access to the side decks from inside the cabin only. External mounted sliding doors to the side decks slide clear of the opening, the timber reveals framing views out. A metal awning creates weather protection for the sliding doors. Translucent glass in the sliding doors references the light qualities of Japanese rice paper screens, creating a sense of enclosure and privacy at night, while encouraging the occupant to open them during the day. They also prevent birds, including the endangered swift parrot, from attempting to fly through the building and striking the glass.
The decks are positioned low to the ground removing the need for ballustrades or any visual obstruction to the broader site, while allowing the edge to be used for seating. A bath is positioned in the afternoon deck below removable decking panels. On this, the more private side of the cabin, the bath allows a celebration of bathing outside in the landscape. With both sliding doors open, the two decks connect seamlessly through the building, creating a 10m x 2.5m platform, dramatically changing the sense of scale, space and connection to the site.
The bathroom has a secret door onto the North deck for the experience of showering (almost) outside, allowing the bathroom to act as a mud room and for access by campers without interrupting the cabin sleepers.
The ‘Nectre’ bakers oven provides ample heating for the cabin from fallen timber on site, with the romance of a flame fire and freshly baked bread or hearty meals in winter.