Format Architects designs Buxton House with large overhanging roof in Melbourne

Architect Martin Rubenstein uses natural materials to create a weekend bush retreat that merges into surrounding greens of the Cathedral Range State Park in Melbourne.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : May 28, 2020

Located in a bush retreat overlooking the Black Range State Forest north east of Melbourne, the Buxton House sits quietly within its surrounding landscape. Designed by Melbourne-based Format Architects, which is led by Martin Rubenstein, the house is defined by its large and deep overhanging roof that offers shade and protection.

The brief of the project was to design a house for a weekend getaway on a 20 hectare property, situated near the foot of the Cathedral Range State Park just outside the township of Buxton in Australia. “The clients wanted that the house should respond to the site, should be simple to construct, inexpensive to build and efficient to run,” says Rubenstein.

Buxton House has an overhanging roof that merges with the natural contours of the site | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
Buxton House has an overhanging roof that merges with the natural contours of the site Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada

The entire design revolves around the idea of simple living. Spatial connection and continuity of surface brings integration of oneness in the house, and provides a calm atmosphere. “I enjoyed integrating some informal ideas such as the utilitarian kitchen designed like a traditional farmhouse kitchen, where family activities and kitchen work are integrated in one big room with a huge dining table in the middle,” adds Rubenstein. This open spatial arrangement has been followed throughout this dwelling. Open and continuous cantilevered wall shelves allow a single wall finish to flow uninterrupted through the entire living space.

  • The entry point opening to the view of large open living area | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
    The entry point opening to the view of large open living area Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada
  • Wall mounted floating shelves in the living area | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
    Wall mounted floating shelves in the living area Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada

The house plan is arranged around a glass walled open plan with living and dining area facing north and a masonry walled sleeping area to the south. Outdoor areas defined by the extended cantilevered roof rest in the east and west. The roof, which is a primary visual element of the house, was constructed on a grid of deep laminated veneer lumber beams exposed and expressed in the ceiling. “The simple order, restrained detailing and a palette of warm internal materials including polished plaster walls, plywood ceilings and exposed aggregate concrete floors lends this house a calm and relaxed feel,” mentions Format Architects.

  • Floor to ceiling windows in the living area offering a view of the lush green landscape outside | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
    Floor to ceiling windows in the living area offering a view of the lush green landscape outside Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada
  • Floor plan of the Buxton House by Australian firm Format Architects | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
    Floor plan of the Buxton House by Australian firm Format Architects Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada

Being a weekend getaway in the bush, Buxton House has its sanctity intact with the design paying careful attention to the topography of the site and the surrounding views, which include ridge lines, valleys with ephemeral water courses, remnant clusters of native vegetation and cleared grazing land. The framing views from inside out to the landscape offer a sense of calm and well-being.

  • The spacious lounge room with glass walls | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
    The spacious lounge room with glass walls Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada
  • Buxton House fireplace – an important design element and a primary source of heating for the entire house | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
    Buxton House fireplace – an important design element and a primary source of heating for the entire house Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada

Buxton House, with its tapered and tilting form, is a single level dwelling in an elevated position with its rear slightly penetrating into the hill. This allows the front of the house to sit on grade providing unfettered access outside and a strong visual connection to the landscaped surrounds from the inside. Since the budget was constrained, the 180sqm house includes an open plan living, dining, kitchen space, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, laundry and storage. However, the spatial arrangement and constant visual connection to the outside is an attempt to make the house appear open and bigger.

  • The sun deck on the eastern front of the house | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
    The sun deck on the eastern front of the house Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada
  • The house incorporates colours in subtle tones and hues to match the natural landscape | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
    The house incorporates colours in subtle tones and hues to match the natural landscape Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada

The house features 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. When the light hits the wall surface it reflects and attempts to convey an intense tactile quality. The range of materials was kept to a minimum to make an efficient and sustainable use of resources. Naturally sealed timber windows and joinery was applied while plywood ceiling panels, exposed and laminated timber beams were responsibly sourced. The concrete floors were cast on site with locally sourced river rock aggregate and sand.

Open kitchen and dining area | Buxton House by Format Architects | STIRworld
Open kitchen and dining area Image Credit: Ernesto Arriagada

The house has been laid out and planned such that each room has a view of the landscape. “There are spaces designed for late evening sun, or sunny spots in the morning so that you can track the light throughout the day,” shares Rubenstein. Winter sun penetration has been achieved by placing 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 3-sided glass firebox. The massive overhanging roof comprising a grid of 600mm deep secretly joined timber roof beams controls the summer sun. “The roof has been designed to make its presence felt throughout the house to enhance the sense of shelter,” adds he architect, Rubenstein.

As Format Architects encourages green sustainable designs through each of their project, this simple and sustainable weekend getaway creates a synergy with its natural landscape.

Project Details

Name: Buxton House
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Architecture and interiors: Format Architects 
Lead architect: Martin Rubenstein
Project size: 180 sqm
Completion date: 2019

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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