Big Hill


I must confess that I was worried about filming this little house. The pictures I'd seen are not those of what you'd call an architectural centrefold. In fact they are quite confronting. So what was all the fuss about as this house that had won a Victorian state architectural award. When we arrived my fears I must say were not immediately unfounded. There must be more to it I thought.

Then on entering the house something quite remarkable happens. You realise this house is slowly seducing you. Its hard shell exterior is giving way to a mysterious, intimate series of internal spaces. From the blazing sun, all of a sudden the architect has dimmed the lights and lit the candle. Inside, it’s quite hypnotising in the way you immediately relax. There are no ornaments, no decoration, and no panoramic view - here the focus is internal. The heavy, shadowy interiors force you to sit in one of the carefully crafted corners. Next to the fire, in the nose of the triangle, or on top of the joinery cupboards that double as seats.

Architect Kerstin Thompson was a delight to interview. Listening to her talk about how some people had despairingly described her house as toilet block, and a concrete bunker was enlightening as usually architects are quick to fiercely defend their work come hell or high water. But Kerstin was so confident in what she had delivered that those critics seemed to give her even more resolve and that her instincts were right.

Her clients also were fun to interview and they to were also very open about how they initially responded to Kerstin's ideas about building an undecorated house of raw concrete block. But with calm, measured confidence the architect of this house - went about her business and stuck with her pure simple plan - convincing her trusting clients and all those who had the pleasure of a visit.

Long after I left this house I found myself still reflecting on how calming and peaceful it felt. And isn't that the true measure of a retreat - that the experience stays with you even if you're not there.

After two days filming I was a big fan of this little house.