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SawMill House, Yackandandah, Australia

November 5, 2015

Young Australian architects Archier Studio have worked with a regionally based sculptor Benjamin Gilbert to hand-craft a truly beautiful dwelling from 270 reclaimed one-tonne blocks of concrete. The award-winning design was designed and built together with the client, and serves as a precedent for positive reuse of the thousands of tonnes of concrete which goes to waste each year.

By Rachel Ang


SawMill House is the creation of two brothers, one an artist, the other, an architect. Located on the site of a 100-year-old abandoned saw mill in Yackandanadah, north-eastern Victoria, the house was both designed and built  as a slow labour of love, changing directions during construction and growing through dialogue and experimentation. The result is a series of flexible, beautiful spaces which speak to their environment, in a material language which is fluent and meaningful, a house which tells a storey.


The dwelling cantilevers over an old dam, and is anchored into a hill. Perhaps the most striking aspect about the house is what anchors it into the hill – 270 blocks of reclaimed concrete blocks, which sit on a concrete slab. The concrete blocks are formed with excess concrete left in trucks from projects in the area, poured into rough steel troughs. Roughly formed, and all varying in shape, texture and tone, each block holds the story of the what it might have been, a bridge, a footpath, a home. Costing $22 each, they offered an extremely cost-effective building material, used to unique and striking effect.


There is a poetic element to their choice of such an uneven, irregular material, as the architects describe it: “The layers of colour mimic the sedimentary layers of earth still exposed from the site’s former life as a gold mine before becoming the local sawmill.”


The other material element of the house is naturally fallen timber from the local Yackandandah forest, used for the flooring, moveable walls and facade. The operable timber elements contrast with the monumental heaviness of the concrete blocks and create a dynamic building envelope to  regulate the internal environment. The house looks out over the dam through untreated rough sawn macrocarpa screens, which also reference the history of the site a timber mill. As the screens age, they will weather to a pale grey, blending the house into its surroundings.


The house is extremely simple and flexible in plan. It comprises a deck, courtyard garden, lounge, kitchen, dining room, master bedroom and bathroom. Sliding glass doors and operable walls between the bedroom and rest of the house open up the home to cooling breezes during summer.



Architects: Archier Studio

Location: Yackandandah VIC 3749, Australia

Project complete: 2014

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