bléuscape design

The Winged House

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.



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