Luigi Rosselli has designed 12 homes for livestock farmers in a place without a name in northwestern Australia. The Great Wall of WA (Western Australia) offers a perfect example of application of Luigi Rosselli’s theories about sustainable construction.
The Great Wall of WA, or The Musterer’s quarters, as it was called by the judges of the WA Architecture Award, looks like a big rammed earth wall resting on a clayey sand dune. Behind the 230 metre long wall, architect Luigi Rosselli designs 12 minimal temporary homes for livestock farmers who need shelter from the region’s tough climate and rest from their hard work.
The unbounded natural landscape without any human constructions accepts this project as part of itself, and the construction fits into its environment with rare continuity, taking advantage of the morphology and properties of the soil. In this location in northwestern Australia, where the hill chosen for construction of the human habitation is interrupted to leave room for open pastures, a vertical wall marks the break, wedged into the mass of earth and following its natural curve. Twelve rectangular huts with one corner literally wedged into the wall, one after another, form a three-dimensional breakwater extending out not into the ocean but into a plain that extends as far as the eye can see. They are made out of rammed earth, a sandy clay rich in iron typical of the area, with gravel and water from the nearby river. With walls 45 cm thick, built partially underground, the units have a high thermal mass which insulates them from the outside so that they stay cool despite the subtropical climate, doing away with the need for air conditioning.
The residences are spartan but well-designed, and though slightly different from one another, they are all based on the same model: a bedroom and a bathroom with a bathtub, with rammed earth walls around the perimeter left bare even on the inside. All the walls facing the plain are designed in the same way, with a big glass door opening onto a red concrete terrace sheltered by a Cor-Ten roof. The lodgings are arranged in two groups along the curved line of the hill, separated by the climb up to an open-air pavilion at the heart of the layout. This little multifunctional area with curved walls that can slide open if required may be used as a chapel, but also as a meeting room, and forms the spiritual heart of the little seasonal community that gathers here. The whole construction is dominated by earthy colours, red, bronze Cor-Ten, and the anodised aluminium sheeting that covers the entire dome of the chapel and turns gold when the powerful rays of the sun stream in from the opening at the top.
Perhaps Luigi Rosselli was thinking of this, his most recent project, when he wrote: “I believe it is possible to settle a building on its site, create a marriage and a dialogue with that site. … I don’t think the building needs to fly over the site …I think there should be a strong connection between the building and the land.”
Location: North Western Australia
Design Architect: Luigi Rosselli
Project Architects: Kristina Sahlestrom, Edward Birch, David Mitchell
Interior Designer: Sarah Foletta
Builder: Jaxon Construction
Structural Consultant: Pritchard Francis
Environmental Consultant: Floyd Energy
Photography: © Edward Birch
Commendation WA Architecture Award 2015