PRIVATE RETREAT / STUDIO
ARCHITECTS : Branch Studio Architects
“PURPOSEFULLY LO-FI, THE RETREAT EMBRACES A LOW-TECH AESTHETIC TOWARDS THE OPERATION OF THE BUILDING ITSELF, FULLY EMBODYING THE IDEA OF RETREAT AND SLOWING DOWN. CELEBRATING CRAFTSMANSHIP AND INTEGRITY OF MATERIALITY INSTEAD OF TECHNOLOGY, EVERY WALL OF THE BUILDING HAVE BEEN DESIGNED TO CONTAIN COMPONENTS THAT MANUALLY FOLD, OPEN AND CLOSE TO MANIPULATE THE SPACE AND TRANSFORM THE PROGRAM OF THE BUILDING”
LOCATION: BALNARRING, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
YEAR : 2016
PHOTOGRAPHY: PETER CLARKE
From the very first discussion with the client it became apparent that this building would need to be specifically non-specific in its apparent program, a space that could be nothing one minute and everything the next, required to regularly and effortlessly switch between an empty nondescript shell of limitless possibilities to a fully functioning private residence, – a knitting studio, a reading room, weekend drinks with the neighbours, yoga, christmas day lunch.
At the heart of it all was the idea of retreat, a slow moving space that would provide a haven from the hectic paces of modern life, a slow building for slow living.
The response to the open-ended brief for a non specific ‘studio and retreat space’ was to create flexibility through adaptability. the idea that the space can be divided or united depending on the requirements of that given moment.
Purposefully lo-fi, The Retreat embraces a low-tech aesthetic towards the operation of the building itself, fully embodying the idea of retreat and slowing down. Celebrating craftsmanship and integrity of materiality instead of technology, every wall of the building have been designed to contain components that manually fold, open and close to manipulate the space and transform the program of the building. Rather than pressing a button on a remote control, the inhabitant must fold and unfold the various components by hand, mindfully manipulating the very space they inhabit and therefore becoming a part of the space, not the master of it.
The connection with place, in this case nature, is an important element… the relentless croak of the frogs, the mesmerising water reflections that dance on the ceiling, the ducks and other water birds paddling past and the dense greenery swaying in the breeze.
The south wall contains the fold away bed and houses a desk, book shelves, general storage and also conceals the air conditioner.
The east wall has a series of flaps that unfold and work together to create a long table while also revealing the shallow storage between the stud wall framing behind.
The west wall houses the kitchen, the main work space (consisting of a large desk area incorporating large concertina doors to conceal the ‘everyday mess’ of a study space, a flap that folds down to create a standing desk utilising the sunken floor area to the north) and a hidden door leading to the bathroom.
Immediately in front of the glazed north wall is the sunken ‘day bed’ providing multiple options for sitting and watching the ducks. A series of plywood boxes have been designed to ‘infill’ the sunken section, providing a larger usable area for parties and gatherings by creating a consistent floor level when in place, while also providing a versatile option for additional tables and seating when removed from the recess and placed throughout the space.
Branch Studio Architects
Branch Studio Architects
Brad Wray and Nicholas Russo, co-founders of Branch Studio Architects
BACHELOR OF ARCHITECTURE [FIRST CLASS HONOURS]
RMIT UNIVERSITY 2007
CO-FOUNDER OF BRANCH STUDIO ARCHITECTS, BRAD’S ARCHITECTURAL INTERESTS DEMONSTRATE A STRONG SENSIBILITY TOWARDS AN ‘IDEAS DRIVEN ARCHITECTURE’, ‘FOUND OBJECTS’ ARE OFTEN USED AS A CATALYST FOR EXPLORING CONNECTIONS TO SITE, CONTEXT, CLIENT & CULTURE OF PLACE. THE PROJECTS THAT HAVE EVOLVED FROM THESE INTERESTS HAVE LED TO THE WINNING OF A SERIES OF DESIGN AWARDS FOR THE PRACTICE.
PRIOR TO STARTING BRANCH STUDIO ARCHITECTS, BRAD WORKED IN DESIGN AND PROJECT ARCHITECT ROLES ON A BROAD VARIETY OF PROJECT SCALES & PROJECT TYPES SUCH AS SMALL RESIDENTIAL & HIGH-END RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS TO SPECIALIST HEALTHCARE AND LEARNING FACILITIES.
BRAD COMPLETED HIS ARCHITECTURAL STUDIES AT RMIT IN 2007 COMPLETING A BACHELOR OF ARCHITECTURE WITH FIRST CLASS HONOURS. IN 2004 BRAD STUDIED ABROAD FOR A PERIOD AT THE ACCADEMIA DI ARCHITETTURA IN MENDRISIO, SWITZERLAND/ITALY, UNDER PORTUGUESE ARCHITECTS AIRES MATEUS AND TO GREAT DELIGHT, WAS ALSO ACCEPTED INTO SWISS MASTER – PETER ZUMTHOR`S DESIGN ATELIER. THIS EXPERIENCE WAS INTEGRAL TO BRAD`S FOUNDATIONAL YEARS BEFORE RETURNING AND GAINING INVALUABLE INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE WITH SHANE MURRAY & JOHN WARDLE ARCHITECTS FOR THE NEXT THREE AND A HALF YEARS IN MELBOURNE.
BRAD HAS BEEN A DESIGN STUDIO GUEST CRITIC, AS WELL AS ASSISTING IN WORKSHOPS FOR NEW PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS AT RMIT UNIVERSITY, MONASH & MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE.
BACHELOR OF ARCHITECTURE
RMIT UNIVERSITY 2007
CO-FOUNDER OF BRANCH STUDIO ARCHITECTS, NICK`S ARCHITECTURAL INTERESTS GRAVITATE TOWARD PROJECTS WHICH DISPLAY A STRONG SCULPTURAL INTENT.
THESE INTERESTS HAVE LEAD TO NICK GAINING MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE THROUGH THE REALISATION OF A SERIES OF BUILT RESIDENTIAL AND SMALL SCALE PROJECTS INCLUDING THE AQUEDUCT HOUSE AND THE BRIDGE HOUSE (NICK`S OWN HOUSE IN WHICH HE DESIGNED, PROJECT MANAGED AND PLAYED AN INTEGRAL PART IN CONSTRUCTING HIMSELF).
FORMERLY A MEMBER OF ORCHARD DESIGN SCULPTURE STUDIO, NICK ALSO HAS EXPERIENCE WORKING ON LARGER PROJECTS HAVING COMPLETED LITURGICAL AND COMMERCIAL PROJECTS SUCH AS THE NEW FACILITY FOR TOBIN BROTHERS FUNERALS IN ROSEBUD AND THE ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS TO THE CHAPEL AT SALESIAN COLLEGE IN CHADSTONE.
NICK DISPLAYS A HANDS ON APPROACH TO HIS ARCHITECTURE AND PAST EXPERIENCES HAVE ENSURED A DETAILED UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS. NICK ENJOYS GETTING ON SITE TO OBSERVE A BUILDING BEING BROUGHT TO LIFE AND BELIEVES THAT ESTABLISHING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CONTRACTORS ON SITE IS CRUCIAL TO THE SUCCESSFUL REALISATION OF A BUILT PROJECT. THE RESULT OF THIS IMPORTANT METHODOLOGY IS CLEAR IN NICK`S COLLABORATION WITH THE BUILDER/CONTRACTOR ON THE ‘PUMP HOUSE’ WHICH HAS BEEN WIDELY RECOGNISED AND PUBLISHED.
HAVING PREVIOUSLY WORKED IN A SCULPTURE STUDIO, NICK HAS ALSO DEVELOPED A PRACTICAL UNDERSTANDING OF MATERIALITY AND FORM AS WELL AS GRASPING THE POSSIBILITIES AND LIMITATIONS WHEN DESIGNING FOR THE FABRICATION INDUSTRY. NICK HAS BROUGHT THIS EXPERTISE ACROSS INTO HIS ARCHITECTURAL WORK, COMMISSIONING AND COORDINATING THE DESIGN AND FABRICATION OF MANY ONE-OFF FEATURE PIECES WITHIN HIS BUILDINGS INCLUDING DISTINCT FEATURE DOORS, UNIQUE STAIR CASES AND CUSTOM FIRE PLACES.
LEVEL 02 SUITE 06
73A RUPERT STREET
P. 03 9419 2300