Daylesford Longhouse


Project// Daylesford Longhouse

Architect // Timothy Hill - Partners Hill

Written by //Jo Russell-Clarke

Photography // Rory Gardiner

Featured Products// Austral Bricks Burlesque in Indulgent White
The Longhouse in Daylesford carefully calibrates domestic pleasures with the productive rural activities of a working farm and cooking school.

On a late winter’s day with full sun and a brisk breeze, the sliding side panels of a vast Ampelite shed were open. A large almond tree – the first fruit tree to blossom – was vivid white and buzzing with bees. Shadows of birds moved across the roof with a clatter of claws. A pair of masked lapwings voiced their distinctive call. They typically inhabit large grassy areas near open water but have taken to nesting on flat roofs. The Longhouse roof isn’t flat, but perhaps it seemed like an expanse of reflective water from above. Within, all is glowing, leafy-green and very comfortable.
The Longhouse is a 110-metre-long big shed sheltering a sequence of smaller buildings and gardens. Trace Streeter and Ronnen Goren, the couple who built the Longhouse, have lived in it for a couple of years. For three years prior to that, while they were building the house and its garden, they lived in nearby Daylesford. What they have built serves as a cooking school, productive garden and living space for themselves, friends and WWOOFers (Willing Workers On Organic Farms).

Goren is a graphic designer who still works in Melbourne as a founding partner of 25 years with Studio Ongarato. Streeter has relocated from Queensland. ‘Part of Trace moving from Queensland to Melbourne depended on finding a farm; finding a farm; finding the right site,’ explains Goren. ‘Coming from Brisbane he wanted a different experience of climate and landscape.’ As Goren points out, the week before my arrival it had snowed but outside the longhouse is a sunny green landscape.
Architect Timothy Hill of Partners Hill was involved from the outset. ‘We were interested in siting the building, especially as we were very interested in the sequencing, the experience of approaching the building,’ explains Hill.

The relationships of the nested buildings to the surrounding land and wider landscape beyond is key to the project. Lying just off the crest of a hill with expansive views, the Longhouse is approached from the rise behind.

A switchback road spreads and shifts the surrounding landscape before you as you approach, until finally swinging perpendicular to a long shed, nestled behind grassed mounds and tanks. From outside Mount Franklin is framed in the far distance by the open sliding doors on either side of the shed.
‘Ultimately, the idea for the shed structure and he internal spaces comes out of the program and the site,’ says Goren. ‘The views are wonderful but being so exposed means we needed protection.’ And it was not just humans that needed protecting. Goren and Streeter wanted to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs, as well as ornamental favourites. These plantings would also need shelter.

Inside the Longhouse are rows of veggies fronted with herbs, scrambling passionfruit vines and secured grapes, fruit and citrus trees, including a massive avocado and figs espaliered against translucent walls.

It made sense to protect separate, smaller buildings within a huge shed. The shed could then also shield planting, affording light and views while being able to open up to breezes when the weather was mild. But the architect also saw the project as a chance to rethink the way we relate to landscape. ‘Doing my first site visit in summer London clothes, straight off a plane, was very revealing,’ says Hill. ‘It was blisteringly cold.’

The site presented challenges to cultivation, too, including from the attentions of kangaroos, cockatoos and other animals. These non-human residents were part of what drew Hill’s clients to the site but they would also destroy any new planting that survived exposure to wind and weather.
‘We saw that neighbours were doing very defensive things to cope with the conditions,’ recalls Hill. ‘If we look at patterns of colonial and post-colonial farming compared with people who have always farmed in harsh environments- Tunisia and the top of Britain for example- you see the Australian tendency to scatter buildings in the landscape.’

Screen planting then makes buildings and their gardens very inward-focussed retreats from a harsh environment. ‘In the Australian lexicon there’s a lot of romancing of sheds and cottages,’ says Hill.

Cottages are good for gazing out of at a landscape that is a place of beauty and fear. They separate you from it. ‘At the Longhouse you can spend a lot of time ‘inside’ and yet be close to the landscape. In mid-winter, on a stormy night, you can be in your socks going to the ‘outside’ bathroom!’

This story was first published in FOLIO 4, a magazine by Brickworks. Register now for your free copy here.


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