Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna lays a dusky stroke in an isolated hilly terrain

The private shipping container house encircling a circular pool, by Benn + Penna Architecture, reveals choreographed simplicity, recessing into its rugged Australian site.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Mar 12, 2022

A three-dimensional weave of landscape and building, this Australian residence called Colo Crossings built by Benn + Penna Architecture has been designed as a secluded, darkling shelter in the pursuit of retreat. Located 100 kilometres north-west of Sydney's central business district in Australia, the residential architecture sits atop a steep slope, within a bend above the Colo River, recessed into and willingly consumed by an unforgiving landscape chosen by the clients for its gift of privacy, to escape the city bedlam. Its dusky, refined linearity outlining the solitary containment rests in rural effortlessness brought alive by rugged ground, lush, heavy trees and bush laden mountains at a distance. “‘Isolation’ takes on a new meaning as a celebration of one's surroundings,” elaborates Andrew Penn, Director of the Sydney-based architectural and design office.

  • The secluded Colo Crossings house is made of shipping containers encircling a circular pool | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
    The secluded Colo Crossings house is made of shipping containers encircling a circular pool Image: Tom Ferguson
  • The choice of materials (metal, concrete, glass and accents of wood) ensures good thermal insulation | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
    The choice of materials (metal, concrete, glass and accents of wood) ensures good thermal insulation Image: Tom Ferguson

The Australian architects employed a minimal colour and material palette, as well as looped internal circulation that creates dialogue with the external topography, suggesting a cyclical passage for the occupants of the low-lying residential design that follows the east-westerly sun. With a U-shaped floor plan, the Colo Crossings house comprises three bedrooms, two washrooms and an open plan kitchen and living area that seems to "wrap its arms" around the inhabitants. The house forms periphery for viewing the cinematic terrain right from its entrance promenade, with massive glass windows and the prominent glazed central walkway that serves as a “telescope” towards the immediacy of the landscape.  

Aerial view of the house | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
Aerial view of the house Image: Tom Ferguson
The distinct metal roof and ribbed metal walls settles harmoniously into the rugged landscape | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
The distinct metal roof and ribbed metal walls settles harmoniously into the rugged landscape Image: SeanTran

The considered budget and collaboration with consultants became the perfect reason for Benn + Penna Architecture to follow an ethos of resourcefulness and retreat for the Colo Crossings residence. Construction was ingenious and capable with the employment of ready-made shipping containers and tanks, as well as exposed structural members. The existing sandstone bedrock served as a natural foundation, "which the geotechnical and structural engineers worked with to support the building in an area prone to landslides,” Benn relays. The structures of steel lay anchored into the rock, “with exposed members as an expression of the structure; designed to withstand its context for years to come,” he adds.

Existing sandstone bedrock served as natural foundation for the low-lying Australian residence | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
Existing sandstone bedrock served as natural foundation for the low-lying Australian residence Image: Tom Ferguson

A tri-toned colour scheme garbs the horizontal form, integrating it further into the landscape, like how the house's black platform deck remains anchored onto the blackened rock shelf, followed by bush green shipping containers as its main volumes which are crowned with a silvered roof that enjoys “reflective kinetics” of the clouds swiftly passing. The roof is made distinct by its familiar hipped shape which peaks above the plunge, circular pool, becoming the hearth of the residence, “facilitating domestic nurture amidst the rugged terrain,” they add.

The minimal and slow interior design has generous views of its surrounding landscape | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
The minimal and slow interior design has generous views of its surrounding landscape Image: Tom Ferguson

The minimal interior design channels hyyge with cold concrete floors, with the exception of a dark plywood kitchen that “nod towards the raw, untampered surrounds”. The shipping container’s ribbed metal walls and the metal roof have been doubly insulated to protect against the high diurnal range of the area. To facilitate thermal mass, a fresh concrete slab was poured into each container while multiple north facing windows bring in the sun, in conjunction to photovoltaic powered, in-slab heating.

  • Colo Crossings enjoys generous glazing | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
    Colo Crossings enjoys generous glazing Image: Tom Ferguson
  • The forest green, ribbed shipping container walls of the contemporary house | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
    The forest green, ribbed shipping container walls of the contemporary house Image: Tom Ferguson

The rural landscape coupled with bushfire regulations of the river made necessary for the Australian architecture to be idiosyncratic to its place, and integrated a self-water-collecting system to cover its own consumption. The peaked roof and water tanks become reservoirs for water, while the central pool provides protection in the event of a fire. “The quietly nestled form is in constant balance and antithesis with its rugged context; insinuating the potential for a quiet dip or defence against blaze at any point,” the architects share.

  • Conceptual models | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
    Conceptual models Image: Courtesy of Benn + Penna Architecture
  • Axonometric diagram | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
    Axonometric diagram Image: Courtesy of Benn + Penna Architecture
  • Ground floor plan | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
    Ground floor plan Image: Courtesy of Benn + Penna Architecture
  • ASections | Colo Crossings by Benn + Penna Architecture | STIRworld
    Sections Image: Courtesy of Benn + Penna Architecture

Project Details

Name: Colo Crossings
Location: Colo River, NSW, Australia
Architect: Benn + Penna Architecture
Design Team: Andrew Benn, Sean Tran, Rachel Stratford
Builder: Underhill Constructions, Mountain Gum Constructions, and Craig Miller

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