Peter Stutch­bury con­nects what is im­por­tant to his clients with the build­ings he de­signs for them.

Belle - - Design News R I Ght Now - Por­trait DAVE WHEELER Edited by KAREN MCCART­NEY

APART FROM THE BURSTS of noise, the best place to in­ter­view an ar­chi­tect is amid the con­struc­tion site of their own home, or maybe it is just the best place to in­ter­view Peter Stutch­bury. A tour of a very per­sonal build ex­poses all sorts of nu­anced pre­oc­cu­pa­tions and there is some­thing anatom­i­cal about see­ing the de­tailed work­ings of a build­ing in the mak­ing. As we move through the site Stutch­bury gives po­etic de­scrip­tions of how the ar­chi­tec­ture will fa­cil­i­tate beau­ti­ful mo­ments in the life of his family, friends and com­mu­nity and how light, breezes, plants and views have been man­aged so the ex­pe­ri­ence of na­ture is wo­ven into the fab­ric of the build­ing.

“I had de­signed a cou­ple of fu­tur­is­tic schemes but re­alised I didn’t want a showy house but rather one that pre­sented a tough, func­tional shell in its pub­lic face. It is when you step inside the front door that the house starts to per­form. I have de­signed more than 180 schemes for this land and this has to em­body the essence of all of them in the most el­e­men­tal of forms,” he says.

Con­structed in con­crete, the house has a pur­posely lim­ited pal­ette of ma­te­ri­als: a sec­tion roofed in can­vas, form ply reused from the build­ing process as the pri­mary join­ery ma­te­rial, huge slabs of slate im­ported from part­ner Fer­nanda’s vil­lage in Brazil for the kitchen floor, and hints of cop­per and brass in pan­els and fit­tings. At the heart of the house is a grassed court­yard, with a pond, tree and fire pit, which is open to three lev­els of the build­ing. There is some­thing sim­ple and Ja­panese about the use of space but Stutch­bury views it through a quintessen­tially Aus­tralian prism. He feels this house has be­come piv­otal in the de­vel­op­ment of his at­ti­tude to ar­chi­tec­ture in that he has tested him­self and is more as­sured as a re­sult (this from an Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects gold medal win­ner and an In­ter­na­tional Fel­low of the Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects).

When we meet he is mulling over a fresh com­mis­sion from an astronomer in the Blue Moun­tains, west of Syd­ney, who wants to con­nect with the stars. Stutch­bury has a plan in mind for a series of vaulted ceil­ings and a sec­tion that opens to re­veal the Milky Way. He de­lights in con­nect­ing and am­pli­fy­ing what is of cen­tral im­por­tance in his clients’ lives.

He has a strong con­nec­tion to place and, as his com­mis­sions have grown sub­stan­tially in value over the decades, he has never lost sight of this el­e­men­tal re­la­tion­ship to the earth. The award­win­ning In­vis­i­ble House has cap­tured the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion. “It is our most ref­er­enced project – some­thing in it res­onates deeply with peo­ple. It is to do with both the phe­nom­e­nal site and the pared-back, ar­chaic ap­proach to the de­sign,” he says. And when he talks about find­ing the right lo­ca­tion for the house he says there was an orig­i­nal farmer’s clear­ing along­side a cat­tle camp on the plateau, which was fur­ther worked for the new house. “An­i­mals al­ways know the best spots – where is out of the wind, where is most com­fort­able to be.”

While his work is pre­dom­i­nantly lo­cated in New South Wales his foray into the wider world was the stuff of ar­chi­tects’ dreams. In 2007 Ja­panese fash­ion de­signer Issey Miyake briefed his of­fice with the words “na­ture, func­tion, en­vi­ron­ment, con­nec­tion and wild” in a search for an ar­chi­tect to de­sign a re­treat on ocean­front land out­side Tokyo. They found Stutch­bury and the re­sult­ing Wall House with its sense of craft and re­straint, sited in tan­dem with the ex­ist­ing Samurai and Geisha Houses re­spec­tively, is a next-gen­er­a­tion build­ing in an honourable lin­eage. From fash­ion de­signer to astronomer, from art col­lec­tor to builder of his own home, the jour­ney of ex­plo­ration is clearly what keeps his spirit and imag­i­na­tion alive. pe­ter­stutch­

He has never lost sight of this el­e­men­tal re­la­tion­ship to the earth.

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