Somnium at Bingie Gallery

A note from Architect Eoghan Lewis

Our clients came to us with the vision to create a sustainable, low-key environment for hosting special gatherings as well as the occasional weekender for themselves. They had a passion for landscape and sustainability and had plans to rejuvenate the land. The new building needed to be robust, have a small carbon footprint and capitalise on the dramatic views, but also needed to provide moments of intimacy, warmth and protection from the elements.
Within the rolling drama of its lakefront site, Somnium acts as experiential container for appreciating place. The building plays with notions of prospect and refuge encouraging an active relationship between inhabitant and environment. The challenge was to foreground place and embody the spirit of camping, of roughing it by exploring a kind of stripped-back, almost monastic decadence, reimagining two existing structures as an eco-tourism development.
Inspired by the houses of Utzon in Mallorca and Leplastrier in Sydney, we explored the idea of a dwelling cluster where the various components of the house – living, sleeping, bathing – are pulled apart and connected by courtyards and breezeways like a string of pearls. This also has roots in the farmhouse and homestead typologies where the spaces between buildings are as important as the buildings themselves.
In the one hand, our approach was pragmatic. There were two existing buildings on site – a brick veneer project home and a dilapidated timber barn – and we reasoned that more could be gained environmentally and economically from working with these structures than starting from scratch. Their poverty allowed a radical transformation. Interiors were gutted, roofs removed, openings cut and material and functional layers added. A new pavilion housing living and kitchen spaces kinks to capture two distant views of Coila Lake whilst taking advantage of the northerly aspect. The intention is that guests will experience contrasting rhythms of enclosure and landscape as they pass between spaces with a dark and intense interiority through courtyard-rooms offering distinct landscape relationships.
The skillion roofs capture winter sun and cooling breezes, dipping down to create a low brim to the south that accentuates distant views of Coila Lake and beyond. They connect the pavilions visually helping them present as a coherent family in spite of their contrasting program and origin. Spotted gum laminated timber beams sit on concrete ring beams that stabilise the walls and create a new horizontal datum. Sliding timber doors and screens encourage residents to create distinct inside outside relationship for functional, solar, acoustic or privacy reasons.
All spaces are naturally ventilated and the building is heated and cooled through an in-slab hydronic system that sits over existing slabs. Rainwater is harvested and stored in an a 100,000L tank and a 10KW PV solar array provides electricity. There is no mains sewage or gas.
~ Eoghan Lewis (architect)