Max Pritchard’s compact tower

ISING UP FROM A TREE-LINED SLOPE, Max Pritchard’s compact tower seems perfectly at home in the bush. Its simple, unobtrusive shape, natural timber features and muted colourings allow it to blend in with its surroundings, while still standing out as a fine example of elegant, original residential architecture.

Max has been working in Adelaide for fifteen years. When he first started, the local residential design scene was rather quiet — but gradually that has started to change. He believes the region is slowly becoming more conscious of good design, with more original work starting to appear. Having won an Award of Merit in the residential category, Max’s own project has his peers’ approval as a prime example of this exciting new wave of Adelaide architecture.

Max designed the house as a tower to minimise its impact on the land and reflect the form of the neighbouring tall trees. It is built around a six metre square plan, rising through three levels. Balconies, stair landings and cupboards project from the otherwise flat sides of the house, and are clad in plywood and corrugated iron to mirror the colours and textures of the bush. Max believes that what gives the house its uniqueness is its lightweight construction — even though it’s three storeys high, it appears “light and delicate among the trees”.

Because of the large number of trees, the house required a roof without gutters that could become blocked with leaves. Max designed a square roof that dips down in the middle to form a valley that conducts rain water to an adjacent tank.

The slope of the site allows access by bridge to the middle level of the house, which contains the main living area. This is a large open plan space containing the kitchen, dining and living rooms, and providing excellent views of the bush and distant hills. Most of the middle level is in fact two-storeys high, an innovation made possible by cleverly designing the top floor as a mezzanine. This upper level contains the main bedroom and ensuite, while two more bedrooms and a bathroom are housed in the lower level.

The climate in the hills is cooler than in urban Adelaide, so the house needed to be exposed to as much winter sunlight as possible. This has been achieved by placing the living areas in the upper levels of the house and lining them with banks of north-facing windows. Electrical heating provides further warmth in winter. There is no air-conditioning, but the house is naturally ventilated, with the tower form allowing hot air to escape by convection during summer.

The interior of the house continues the natural theme of the exterior, with timber used extensively in floorboards, window frames, stairs and benchtops. Vibrant blue and yellow feature walls enhance the natural brightness of the living spaces, while curved elements contrast with the square form of the building and give a soft edge to the rooms.

This is a house that achieves many things: it is elegantly constructed, yet practical; contemporary and original, but also highly inhabitable; striking in its design, yet considerate of its environment. Its recognition in the RAIA state awards shows that the house is a welcome addition to the growing body of South Australian residential architecture.

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