Mt Coot-Tha House

Nielsen Jenkins. Mt Coot-Tha House is a project for Morgan Jenkins’ sister, her partner and their two children on an empty bushland block next to their childhood home.

Two key design constraints of slope & bushfire exposure were overlayed with an engrained understanding of this place and the people that would inhabit it, to explore ideas of connection and refuge within a much bigger landscape.

At times, the slope of the site is almost 1:2. The plan of the building provides both a central, efficient staircase that runs directly into the contour of the hill (expressed as a civic scaled blockwork axis at the scale of the gum trees), and also a more meandering, informal path across the contours – across stairs, benches, seats and low walls.

Except for the garage level, the house is essentially a single storey building stretched up the slope of the hill. These smaller sectional shifts allow a grounded courtyard space adjacent to the living area of the house which becomes a kind of ‘village green’ around which the rituals of daily life are lived.

A high ridgeline to the west, allowed for built elements to be arranged to define courtyard which opens in this direction and allows dappled light into the house for as long as possible in the afternoons. 

The vertiginous experience of leaning back to peer up into the canopy is captured in high level windows that frame views over the top of other parts of the building to the bushland beyond. All openings in the building are treated like picture windows to specific moments of the immediate site and into far off views of the broader landscape.

Externally the building embraces the rigour necessary to achieve the technical specifics of a BAL40 site by using robust and prozaic materials which have been detailed in a manner which will require no maintenance moving forward and will let the building continue to settle into the hill over time.

Retaining walls are largely moved off the high side of the building to create smaller, lush courtyards which deal with overland flow concerns and mimic the flatter areas of the hillside where the dry, gum eucalypt forest gives way to denser vegetation.

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