retreat models



ross mcleod


retreat n. a place where one finds peace and reconnects with the rhythms and beauty of nature


In this technical elective students were asked to design and detail a small sustainable dwelling for two people to inhabit. The dwelling could be sited within a specific landscape anywhere in the world and be designed so as to celebrate the daily rituals of sleeping, bathing, eating and relaxing. The structure was to be approximately 60m3 in volume. During the course of the semester the students developed and presented their design proposal and documented the concept to a high level of technical resolution.

The project began with the students establishing an intimate knowledge of the environmental forces that shaped the site and developing graphic techniques to communicate them. A surveying of the sites topographical features and flora along with the understanding of the path of the sun relative to the sites latitude, the mapping of temperature extremes, prevalent wind conditions and rainfall levels were worked into a ‘bio-climatic’ diagram. This diagram defined a primary comprehension of the site and became the touchstone through which architectural design decisions were made.

Students were asked to develop their own ‘reverse brief’ which outlined the scenario in which they saw the design operating. They also began to research precedents which were appropriate to their chosen site and the construction issues they were exploring. In developing their design, the students sought to synthesise the reading of the site with a design that established a unique relationship between the interior and exterior. This involved taking into consideration the need for the consolidation of interior spaces and functions within the size constraints of the design. Through the creation of a distinctive formal and spatial gesture, the students attempted to bring together the programmatic concerns of the dwelling with the environmental imperatives of its surroundings. This proved to be both a challenging and liberating task.

The design of a small ‘off the grid’ building which integrated living, eating, sleeping, washing and ablutions called for the in-depth research into contemporary environmental systems principles and technologies. The students needed to familiarise themselves with passive systems for lighting, heating and cooling, coming to terms with concepts of insulation, thermal mass, breezeways and sun-shading relative to the aspect of the building. They also needed to contemplate: the generation of electrical energy through photovoltaic panels and wind turbines used in conjunction with direct current storage systems and appropriate lighting and appliances; the collection, pressure, heating, recycling and drainage of water through the configuration of tanks, pumps, solar hot water and grey water systems; and the disposal and processing of sewage and black water through composting or biolytic treatment.

Ultimately the students were asked to produce a complete set of contract drawings for the design. In order to do this they had to appreciate the structural dynamics and construction principles that would be employed in the realisation of the building and needed to research appropriate materials and detailing techniques that would be used in its completion. The final drawing package included site plan, floor plans, roof plan, electrical and lighting plan, exterior elevations, sections, details, material schedules and an environmental systems diagram.



karura falls, kenya - sandra githinji



barwon heads, australia - katharine kavanagh



yarra valley, australia - tharinee wong



nakhon pathom, thailand - tanida suebsanguan



ten peaks, canada - hexin bi



Students: Hexin Bi, Jacinta Birchmore, Caroline Dale, Sandra Githinji, Khanh Cao Ho, Kirby Humphries, Katharine Kavanagh, Michael Lam, Tahlia Landrigan, Stacey Rich, Stella Skoumbridis, Tanida Suebsanguan, Pia Twyford, Tharinee Wong