“There is so much to love about this Pioneer’s home,” said Pauline Hurren, acclaimed South Australian Architect and design principal on this project.
“The bones were strong and our desire for this humble stone dwelling is to lovingly transform it into a stylish home for today, while honouring its past glories,” continued Pauline.
When the property selling agent showed the Hurren Project Team through Heartwood, he rightfully pointed out “this is not for the faint-hearted”. The Team quickly agreed, but just as readily recognised there was a unique and charming character that was awaiting discovery.
For me, as an architectural voyeur, the project offered so many options and at the heart of it - the twin stone huts were a time capsule of early settlement. I wanted to hear its stories and understand its role in the community of the day.
When Pauline and I first walked onto the land, we quickly left behind the suburban street frontage as we wound our way down a walkway of gravel and irregularly spaced stone steps.
You could tell it was once a gardeners delight with the established shrubs and healthy understory. Towering overhead, the canopy of the giant oak stood testament to the years it had offered protection from the weather. Nestled beneath it, the twin stone gables rose up to greet us.
The setting and existing built form was captivating yet in muddled disrepair, I started to question if this is a foolhardy escapade or an exemplar for adaptive reuse architecture.
Clearly evident was the building’s importance - of both the era and the area - built 20 years before the surrounding township of Stirling was established.
This exceptional site sits in a significant part of the Mount Lofty Ranges watershed at the spring-head of a natural valley feeding the Upper Onkaparinga Cox Creek Catchment that today supplies up to 30% of metropolitan Adelaide’s water.
How luscious it must have been, and how important the location - reported in The Observer of December 1898 as “one of the most sequestered and loveliest of the valleys of South Australia”.
Now I really wanted to know why this stone cottage inspired the team to recapture and celebrate its unique built form.
Created by skilled craftsman, the oldest buildings are of stone quarried from the site and timber felled nearby. The stone is well laid and remains in good condition, the crafted internal timber work is solid, the generous glassed windows on all sides flood the rooms with light and glorious views exist to the garden and the valley. Investigation above the large hand-hewn stone fireplace exposed the yellowish brown pink tinge of a massive hardwood lintel cleaved from Stringybark heartwood and timber matchboard planking lined the ceilings. To Pauline’s delight, the original hand cut timber shingle roof still existed under the iron roof in the oldest part of the dwelling.
Outside, the swimming pool while structurally sound was thoroughly unused for some time and would respond well to sympathetic care. Delightfully, it was built with deliberate disregard for straight lines, adding to the charm.
It is true, the original stone dwelling has ‘strong bones’ and the more recent outbuildings show possibility. I sought to find out what was the magic that will pull this together successfully.
“Older buildings have a specific character evident through their construction, detailing and joinery,” observed Pauline.
“Our approach was akin to adaptive reuse as we were reusing the site and buildings, however, in a more delightful twist, we were also re-establishing them to their original purpose, as a rewarding and pleasant home”.
With deliberate intent, the forlorn dwelling is to be conserved through a successful marriage of the existing heritage structures and forward-looking architectural design, adding a contemporary layer to provide value for the future.
Heartwood | Built 1867 | Reborn 2016 | A celebration of 150 years.
Follow this journey from creative design to active construction as I talk with Pauline Hurren, Principal Architect on Heartwood in each of the next phases of this small piece of early settlement history in one of Adelaide's most sought-after residential areas and prettiest towns in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.
A Project for the Courageous
- Written by Marcus Battye