Oak Dene, Kyabram
This house is possibly unique in Australia; all of its wall surfaces, both inside and out, its ceilings and its roof are formed from corrugated ‘iron’. Other than the roof, which is of the familiar profile, this is of a small radius, now called mini orb. This is unusual enough but such metal buildings rarely have the architectural ambition of Oak Dene. The house was designed by Melbourne architect Gerard Wight for his brother Dr John Wight in 1904. It has features that respond to the extremely hot and dry long summers of the area. Verandas fully shade the walls, the roof space is generously ventilated through louvered Dutch gables, cooling Southerlies can be funnelled into the rooms, high level hopper windows catch breezes without compromising security. Walls and roof are fully insulated with red gum sawdust from the historic mills at Echuca on the Murray River. The spacious rooms flow together and their high ceilings, simple details, hardwood floors and 12 fireplaces achieve a quiet dignity that seems remote in both time and space from the world outside. The house was originally surrounded by three acres of beautiful Edwardian gardens, designed by William Guilfoyle, moonlighting director of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. These were lost to a 1960s land subdivision, and with this the house’s street orientation. Its back was forced into becoming its front, its private areas to public. The front door became redundant and for 60 years entrance was ambiguous. Our project intervenes lightly, but does remodel carefully to find a new logical entrance sequence. New services are provided, repairs made where needed and garaging and a new garden designed. This time the architect is working for himself, and memory, association and the origins of his sensibility are driving the design.