Tranmere House

The Tranmere residence was designed as a three bedroom family home on the eastern shore of the Derwent River, 8km from, and looking across the river to, the city of Hobart. A typical Hobart aspect is available from the site, looking over a gently sloping foreground to the successive layers of river, city and foothills. The brooding figure of Mount Wellington terminates this layering of space and presents its distinctive profile to the sky.

An important aspect of this suburban hillside location is a distinctly linear spatial quality. The contours run parallel to the river, which in turn presents a series of ‘lines’ or ‘planes’ of landscape to the viewer on the eastern shore. From the site, these lines exist as trees (foreground), river (middleground), Hobart foothills (distance) and Mount Wellington beyond. A ‘threshold’ condition exists in this place, between the suburban development and river below, and an area of natural bushland immediately above and behind. The possibility existed for this condition to be re-described, or rediscovered, through this project.

The first act was to make a place in the landscape that reflects the key characteristics of the site condition. A cut was made in the site that suggested a massive shelf, or stage, from which views to the river and mountain can be enjoyed. This excavation and formalisation of the site geometry represents the ‘archaeological’ component of the project and forms an armature upon which the layering of program is grafted. Despite the closure of this solid form, its geometry alludes to the lineal pattern of river valley space and city development. The location of the block at the rear of the building, and its earth-coloured render, is a study in the spatial containment and mass of the mountain, rendered in macro scale.

The formal strength of the block form provides a backdrop for a series of thin, lightweight planes that articulate the major public spaces with views to the river and ‘western shore’ hills. These planes recall the planar layering of the city landscape on the western side of the river, and are embellished in thin galvanized stripes on the façade that further dematerialize the planar layers and suggest the extension of the building beyond its suburban plot. From a distance the building disappears completely with the exception of these stripes, left as a floating installation that amplifies the directional qualities of the river valley.

2001 Tasmanian RAIA Awards WINNER Residential Award

Photography by Richard Eastwood