More Exceptional (Eremitical?) Minimalist Architecture

“Show me a more soulless, generally unloved room in a house than the ‘media room’ and I’ll show you the money. Almost equally depressing are those now all-too-common wine cellars, rumpus rooms, powder rooms, fourth bedrooms and bathrooms, rumpus rooms, butler’s pantries, and second studies. Throw them together in one house and you’ve got a footprint akin to a Westfields’ car park – and equally as labyrinthine to navigate.
So here’s the question: why do we fail so often and miserably to differentiate between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ when building? Do we genuinely believe we need all these rooms, all this space?
dogtrot 1
How refreshing to visit Ashley Dunn and Lee Hillam’s ‘Dogtrot House’ in a wonderfully sleepy coastal town on the far south coast – consciously and deliberately designed to offer “everything you need and nothing you don’t”.

Dunn and Hillam’s clients were “a family of long term and committed campers”. They’d asked the couple to design a house up the road from one of their favourite campsites. It would be an upgrade from their usual form of holiday habitation, while remaining true to it. It would function as a holiday home now, permanent base later.
dogtrot 2
Their brief: “Everything they loved about camping, without the pack up at the end of every holiday; a permanent, civilised campsite,” Ashley says.

Challenges: The main road through town snaked around the site’s northern and eastern elevations, with neighbours’ privacy and view issues also important.
dogtrot 3
The response: The home has been divided into two pavilions with a centre covered breezeway or ‘dog trot’ corridor and is described by Ashley as a ‘dog trot’ house’ and ‘permanent campsite’.
“During the evolution of the design I was re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which made reference to the vernacular ‘dog trot’ houses of the American south. The name comes from when the “old dog was too hot to trot”, with the covered breezeway providing the perfect escape from the heat of the day. We realised with some joy that this is what we had.”
The modest 127 square metre home is a “low impact, compact arrangement of three discrete rooms around a kitchen and campfire. Two roofs shelter the pavilions with an open bathroom sleeved between.
The north pavilion features a kitchen to the west, which can be closed off for privacy and weather protection, opening to a large and public indoor/outdoor room for gathering, eating, reading and enjoying the landscape and breeze.
The sleeping and bathing pavilion is nestled behind. Two bedrooms and an additional loft bed over the Japanese onsen-style sunken bath accommodate possibly 10 or more family and friends.
“The rooms are separate but in a strong relationship to one another and the landscape, like a family of tents at a campsite. One has no choice but to be outside when moving between rooms, in this way one is always made aware of the landscape and the weather.
“Architects are rarely presented with an opportunity to site their buildings with the delicacy and deep understanding of place that is evident in the indigenous Australian camp, and subsequently the vernacular structures of the early settlers.
“Overall we were concerned with making an appropriate response to the place, the clients brief and the budget all of which were modest, simple but not straightforward.
“The dog trot house is a house that is everything you need and nothing you don’t. It is humble, poetic and without pretence.”
dogtrot 4
Ashley’s Sustainability Tip:
“All new houses should represent ‘sustainable’ architecture. Every project should be designed with the following principles, integral to the process and result:
Passive: the majority of issues to do with energy use, amenity and comfort in houses, especially in coastal areas, can be solved by good siting and design; design out the need for mechanical systems; and, insulate, ventilate and control the sun for heat and light.
Size: keep it small – smaller buildings use less resources in construction and in the ongoing life of the building.
Materials: keep it simple and recyclable; use renewable timber over steel and avoid all kinds of composite materials where possible; only use finishes where absolutely necessary for the longevity of the material; choose materials for their ability to weather well and be stable in the long term; and, keep the embodied energy low.”

Trisha Croaker

For Dog-trot houses, see

For the 2014 Australian Institute of Architects Awards NSW Chapter, see

For Dunn and Hillam Architects, see

For their Dog-trot house, see

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