Richard Goodwin is an architect and artist. I have long admired this little house he designed in Tasmainia completed in 2007.
The site is very steep, with panoramic views across Bass Strait, the expanse of ocean separating the island from mainland Australia. It is the southernmost part of Australia and isubject to extremes of weather. The combination of a steep gradient, a slippage site and the potential for very high winds drove the design solutions. The original idea of a concrete slab was abandoned early on because of the threat of slippage. Instead, the house was anchored into the rock by deep-thrusting steel piles which emerge from the ground like the struts of a vintage aircraft – or perhaps like the powerful legs of a giant eagle whose talons are clawed deeply into the rockface. Hence, looking up from the bottom of the site, the house seems to hover on the ridge like some iconic aircraft about to take off – an impression reinforced by the lightweight structure of the house with its floating, curved and ribbed zinc roof, cantilevered out on the eastern side, its steel frame and stressed, plywood skin.
But from above, it looks more like a giant bird of prey, wings extended, riding the wind, about to launch itself towards the sea – although it is from this perspective that one can appreciate one of Goodwin’s favourite pieces of detailing, the feathered, western, rear edge of the roof which draws its inspiration from the form of the famous German wartime fighter aircraft, the Messerschmidt 109. “I knew,” says Goodwin, “there was no point to doing this house unless the wings were beautiful as wings.”
There is some irony in the fact that the form of the house was driven by pragmatic issues because it echoes two of Goodwin’s abiding urban political concerns as an artist – namely, parasite and porosity. Much of his work, especially the architectural work, is preoccupied with the idea of the parasite or prosthesis – something attached to and feeding off or articulating something else.
Extract from Text by Paul McGillick, Editor of Indesign.