Beauty doesn’t lie in the size of a project but in the details and the elements that make it special and unique. A perfect example is a highly inspiring project completed in 2020 by the architects and designers at the Gillian van der Schans studio.
They entitled their creations Birdhouse Studios. They’re a couple of tiny houses perched on a steep slope in Tasmania, Australia.
The studios have small footprints of only 42 and respectively 50 square meters and they feature steel framework. There’s a variety of advantages that come with using steel frames when constructing buildings both big and small. For example, they’re earthquake-proof and very durable, being able to withstand anything the environment throws at them.
A steel frame house costs more upfront but it lasts considerably longer compared to wood which makes this the most cost-effective option in the long term. On top of that its increased durability less maintenance and fewer repairs are needed over time. An additional advantage of the reduced weight of a steel frame compared to one made of wood.
It also goes without saying that steel frames are fireproof which is why this option was chosen for the Birdhouse Studios in the first place. Given the location, the site is actually very vulnerable to bush fires and the steel frames in combination with the Corten steel cladding reduce that risk significantly. Steel, on the other hand, conducts heat but luckily the tall trees and the large windows ensure plenty of shade and effective ventilation for the two tiny houses.
Another defining design feature of these gorgeous studios is their Corten steel facades. This type of cladding naturally changes its appearance over time by producing an oxide finish and creating a surface coat of rust that constantly regenerates itself. This adds increased resistant to the environmental factors, makes the facades durable and low-maintenance but most importantly looks magnificent.
The primary reason for using Corten steel cladding for the Birdhouse Studios was to allow them to seamlessly blend into the landscape. The facades reflect the texture and color of the bark present on the nearby trees and have a naturally earthy and matte color.
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Building these two little houses here was challenging. The limited access to the site, the 30 degree rocky slope and the presence of protected eucalyptus vegetation on the site were just some of the constraints that the architects had to deal with. However, the architects chose to see these not as deal-breakers but as opportunities to create something unique and truly special.
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They raised the studios off the ground on steel support frames which led to them being partially suspended over the sloping ridgeline. This also allowed the beautiful rocky terrain and the vegetation below to the preserved and to continue existing undisturbed.
For the interior design of the Birdhouse Studios the architects opted for warm and locally-sourced materials including natural cork and Tasmanian oak. These creates a warm, intimate and welcoming ambiance inside and also complement the Corten steel exterior walls in a very organic manner. The large windows balance out the dark colors and small footprint, opening up the houses to magnificent views of the city and the mountains beyond.
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