Season 02 - Episode 10

Media Gallery

This is an architectural oddity, unlike anything you've seen before. Designed by an architect who shaped his building guided by the forces of geometry and nature.

Built in Gippsland, country Victoria, the 'Croft' house has been described as everything from a flying saucer to a shifting sand dune. For architect James Stockwell, known for creating simple buildings that pack a big design punch, the house is like an aeroplane wing that’s been shaped in direct response to the prevailing winds.  

The plan is elliptical, the roof bends and curves yet when analysed its components are made up of straight edges.  How these optical illusions are composed is a delight. They are a combination of a client who dared to let her architect off the leash, pushing the absurd into geometric logic and a local builder who was not only able to comprehend the design but came up with innovative ways of building it using standard construction methods. 

The external form is a corrugated steel roof, twisting and arching over timber rafters and battens. It sits on a concrete podium, itself a monumental accomplishment as its edges angle up precisely to meet the line of the plunging roof shell. The metamorphing roof canopies over and around the base, peeled back in sections enabling cutouts. These openings in the external skin are framed into windows and doors, leading onto entranceways, patios and terraces. In part, this organic form feels partly gothic in that contemporary flying buttresses anchors the ends of the building to its base. 

Internally the layout is a series of interconnected flowing spaces marked by rammed earth diving walls that never rise all the way to the timber lined ceiling. This enables the entire ceiling to be read as one as it lines the inner curving and arching roof. The plan is divided in two, with the entrance in the centre. At one end is the kitchen and living rooms, while arching in the other direction are the bedrooms, climaxing at one end with a bath that lies beneath the plummeting roof.

Walking through this house partly feels like being under a beautiful tent. It is gentle and embracing, yet seems to be erected in its open field, being pulled taught, anchored and braced against the elements.

The 'Croft' house is a nickname that refers to the ancient farm buildings of Scotland. This modern Australian design however is the closest thing to a fair dinkum real life sandcastle I've ever seen. According to its architect, its shaped by the wind, while its walls are literally made of sand.