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Light Touch – Fredericks/White House in Jamberoo (1981-82)

“Glenn who?” is probably what a lot of people asked themselves when Glenn Murcutt won the Pritzker Prize in 2002, at the time the first Australian architect to gain the distinction. The passionate loner among the great architects of the 20th century, one who never wanted to have a large office, never accepted commissions from outside his home country of Australia, and mainly realised detached dwellings for private clients (sometimes making them wait three to six years before even starting to design) was an unknown quantity for many architecture enthusiasts at the time when the Pritzker Prize was awarded.   
 
Lightweight Industrial Materials
Some 13 years previously, Detail featured a typical example of Murcutt’s residential architecture: Fredericks/White House in Jamberoo, some 50 kilometres south of Sydney. The house is characteristic of his work in terms of its long-strung-out form and the wooden post-and-beam structure that elevates it slightly above a sunny northern slope sheltered from the wind (in Australia the sun shines in the north). Plus it is typical regarding the palette of light-weight industrial materials used by Murcutt for the building’s outer skin, first and foremost in the form of galvanised corrugated steel for the parabolic, well back-ventilated roof, full-height aluminium slatted blinds to shade the glazed northern façade, and slanted glazing on the roof.   
 
Visual Permeability

Yet the house offers a surprise in use of wood for ceilings, floors and walls for the interior, where glazed tympanums between the rooms create visual permeability through the length of the building. The only element to make a stolid, heavy impression is the brickwork fireplace, a somewhat strange-seeming relict of the farmhouse that previously stood at the site. On the southern side of the slope a small annex – marked in the original published plans as a garage but later used as a study – enlarges the house and lends it an L-shaped floor plan.   
 
Flexible Building Concept
The linear building concept demonstrated its flexibility between 2001 and 2004, when Murcutt enlarged the house for a new owner. This involved converting a bedroom with en-suite bathroom at the western end of the building into an open veranda merely sheltered by a corrugated metal roof, and adding a new bedroom wing on the other side. Differences between old and new are to be seen in details at the most – a sign that Murcutt remained faithful to his design principles despite the passage of time.

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