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Holding the line: The Longhouse, Daylesford, Australia, by Partners Hill

AR House awards 2019 shortlisted: Both public and private functions are accommodated under the sweeping shed roof of Partners Hill’s Longhouse in Daylesford

In places, the Macedon Ranges offer a verdant backdrop to the passing of the seasons, fed by natural springs that wind through fertile plains. The immediate surroundings of the Longhouse, however, an elevated plain just outside Daylesford, Victoria, appear to have been drained of colour and hospitality.

The shallow soils and variable weather of the area impede cultivation – as a measure against this, the Longhouse has been embedded in the land. A 110-metre long mass, it sits between two berms, partial submersion enhancing the squat appearance. This strip of occupation sits in a landscape of cuts and transects within time and space; routes across the farm, animal tracks and key views.

Crop ar house shortlist partners hill plan

Crop ar house shortlist partners hill plan

Click to download

Seemingly as a nod to its surrounding landscape, a restrained palette of materials provides the external skin. From the outside, the Longhouse begins to show its duality of utility and beauty. There is both the image of the building as a ‘settlement on another planet’, with windows and openings punched into the skin without adherence to a clear rationale, but also of an undulating corrugated skin seductively redirecting light throughout the day.

The exterior’s language of panels continues internally, with the steel framework and corrugated sheets forming a backdrop to a series of built insertions and an array of planting. These insertions, made of brick and rough-sawn cypress timber, express their programmatic independence in the absence of connections to roof or wall. The architecture does not prioritise any of the several functions it is able to accommodate, instead the building is in a perpetual state of readiness to shift and be reordered.

The arrangement of the interior elements plays a significant part in the way the project eschews customary ideas of domestic living, instead attempting to encompass the whole of village life, sometimes with difficulty. Project architect Timothy Hill sees the Longhouse as ‘part farm, part refuge, part knowledge centre, part hang-out, part hyper-kitchen, part hippy-experiment, part plutocratic odyssey’. Private living areas bookend the central ‘public’ zone, but boundaries are subtle throughout; at the eastern end for example, movement is not restricted, but instead there is textural change, and elements – such as a timber bench – which obstruct transition.

Crop ar house shortlist partners hill section

Crop ar house shortlist partners hill section

Click to download

The innermost parts of the dwelling areas begin to display a level of comparative exuberance, in coloration and finish, with deep timber reveals and textured ceilings working to soften the spaces. There is always interplay between the space for living and the areas for work and entertaining: the bathroom, for example, is given a view along the length of the Longhouse.

Secondary living spaces also exist on the periphery of both private and public functions. One of these, a lounge space, is accessed via a narrow gantry of galvanised steel. On arrival there is no fanfare, instead the architects have shaped this implied space as a perch. From this vantage point the landscape beyond is revealed, reinforcing a sense of place, but there is also a subliminal embrace of the guest: they are welcomed into the household.

Ultimately, within the Longhouse there is no exclusion of the public. They are integral to the inhabitation of space, a reflection of the way in which the operation of the farm and the other intersecting functions are enmeshed in the lives of owners.

All photographs by Shantanu Starick

The AR July/August issue on AR House + Social housing is available to buy here

Josh Fenton is an alumna of the New Architecture Writers (N.A.W.), which is a free programme for emerging design writers, developing the journalistic skill, editorial connections and critical voice of its participants. N.A.W. focuses on black and minority ethnic emerging writers who are under-represented across design journalism and curation. N.A.W. was founded in 2017 by Phineas Harper and Tom Wilkinson with the Architecture Foundation and the Architectural Review and you can read more about it here

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