Season 02 - Episode 03

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As the name suggests, this Robin Boyd winner is a bunkhouse. But even the most sweaty, foul-mouthed, knock about rouse about shearer would stand in awe at this little gem of a building. The setting is a working sheep farm owned by architect John Wardle and his wife Susan on Bruny Island off the bottom of Tasmania.  How and why a top-flight designer decided to become a part time shepherd is just part of a remarkable yarn set in one of the countries most breathtaking locations.

When fire destroyed the original shearers quarters on the site, the architect was guided by his wife who was sympathetic of the needs of the workers. She guided her husband into designing a holiday home that would double as a bunkhouse for the seasonal shearers. At first appearance its hard to see what all the architectural fuss is about, but this little timber house slowly consumes you as you realise their is something quite extraordinary at play.

The roof is a complex warping, twisting plane. At one end a simple modern skill-ion then starts to change along its ridge into a full-blown gable at the other end complete with red brick chimney. This southern facade is an architectural salute to the old 1840's captains cottage that it sits adjacent too.

Seemingly modest inside, the house has 3 bedrooms, one being the bunkroom that also has a series of operable louvers that work in unison with sliding glass panes - so the room can be trimmed to what ever the climatic conditions are outside.

Perhaps either a bit of architectural tomfoolery or an inspired stroke of genius is the use of apple crates to line the walls of the other two bedrooms. While they acknowledge the apple as the Isle's favourite fruit, they give a real comforting naivety to a design which otherwise has been put together with mind bending mathematical accuracy.

The windows are another highlight. Each has been designed and positioned to give framed views of the surrounding paddocks and ocean. But, but, but when the sheep come up to the living rooms frameless fixed pane - its a site that defies description!

John Wardle has built a Sandcastle that magically combines the needs of the workers with his innate desire to create head turning architecture.

The Shearers Quarters might be on a little island off the bottom of Tassie but it has ended up very much at the centre of the international architectural world.

PHOTOGRAPHY @ Trevor Mein