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Finding Nature Contact in the Southern Highlands House Essay

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Updated: Apr 24th, 2022


Glenn Murcutt, one of the most internationally famous architects in Australia, is a master in the current architectural world. Born in London, Glenn grew up in the Morobe district of New Guinea. While growing up, he learned to value simple, vernacular and primitive structures. Through his father, Murcutt learned the philosophies of Henry Thoreau, who believed that people should live in a simple manner and harmony with nature’s laws. As a child, Murcutt identified the two essential things that he still insists a house must provide: prospect and refuge. He went to school at Manly Boys’ high school and later on studied architecture at the Sydney Technical College, where he graduated in the year 1961.

Glenn Murcutt’s works are not large-scale projects, he works with ordinary materials and he works alone. His modernist inspiration goes back to the works of Mies van der Rohe. He has also been inspired by many other architects and designers such as Chareau. He never builds skyscrapers nor does he design showy structures. In addition, he never uses luxurious materials to build or design these houses. He uses his creativity in designing smaller projects that let him work alone and come up with economical buildings that conserve energy and are environmentally friendly.

The Southern Highlands house is located in Australia. Glenn Murcutt was the architect of this house that was built back in 2001. In the Southern highlands house, there is a reduction in the idea of the roof plane and the box. There is increased simplicity that characterizes his work. This project reflects a very intimate connection with nature. Murcutt selected corrugated iron sheet as one of the major materials to be used. He uses materials that can be found easily and economically, for example, stone, concrete, brick and corrugated iron sheets. The corrugated sheet was used in colonial Australia as roofing material and cladding of the barns. This house is defined by the architect’s ideas, structure and functions.

Summary of the details about the house in the Southern Highlands

Architect Glenn Murcutt
Contracting company James Taylor
City Southern Highlands
country Australia
Region Oceania
Climatic Condition Temperate
Housing type Single-family
Number of stories Single-story building

Architect’s ideas as portrayed in the designing of the house in the Sothern Highlands

Glenn Murcutt had the idea of building an economical house when he designed that house. He used readily available materials, which were easily available and non-expensive. His aim is not to create a huge building using state of art materials. When designing this house, Murcutt majored in simplicity. Corrugated iron sheet can be used for many purposes yet it is easily available. By using corrugated iron sheets, Murcutt designed the house using cheap materials thus it was economical. This was an informed selection of materials, which in turn reduced product cycle environmental impacts.

Corrugated iron sheets were flexible. They could be used in different parts of the building. Corrugated iron sheets can be used in roofing, siding, decking and flooring applications. When used for roofing, they are very convenient since they are hardly affected by the weather changes that occur. They consist of a coating made of zinc or zinc alloys. As sidings, corrugated iron sheets are strong because of the ripples or the corrugation patterns that they have. Newer corrugations consist of flat crests with varying widths of the flat areas between the crests. These sheets can be used in various building applications.

The house in the Southern Highlands had an enigmatic appearance. The vast dwelling he completed resembled a long silver line, drawn in the countryside. Murcutt valued innovation even as he designed this house. He knew that sustainable design was an inherent aspect of design excellence.

Structure of the house in the Southern Highlands

The windowless corrugated sheet of the house was found on the southern side. This supports one of the ten measures used in designing and building houses. This measure tackles the issue of light and air. A good design should create comfortable interior environments that provide daylight, views and fresh air. The fact that there is a yard and a barn means that there is land use and site ecology is protected. This benefits the ecosystems in the presence of human development.

In this house, there is metallic-coated carbon steel. The roofing of the gallery consists of a continuous glazed strip that is protected from the summer sun. This is done by prolonging its metal shield, which allows light to enter through one side. This creates a cool, comfortable and restful; atmosphere. The inner side of the shield does not contain any decorations and helps in attaining a degree of abstraction. Through this, shielding aspect, light and air create comfortable interior environments. The sun projections on the shield’s uniform surface change the space into a kind of sundial. The architectural designs capture the natural cycles and the phenomena on which the designs are based and bring them into the dwelling.

The façade from the north is protected from the summer sun by a thin sheet. It is made of wooden shutters and solid concrete pillars. This makes the house in the Southern highlands richer in visual content, which offers a strong counterpoint in between the porosity and mobility of the structure. This explains the bioclimatic design involved in the design of this building. Sustainable design conserves resources while maximizing comfort by way of design adaptations to site-specific & regional climatic conditions.

Functions of the house as designed by Glenn Murcutt

This house in the Southern highlands is fit for a single-family. The parents’ room and the children’s room are not located at the same end. They are only connected by some common space, spaced in the middle and stretched sideways by the terrace. When one is entering the house through one of the double doors, there is a very impressive view. The magnificent view is offered by the seventy-meter interior gallery, which is the main distribution point that serves as house thermal regulation system. Such a house is convenient for a single-family.

In this house, there is the aspect of conservation of energy. There are solar panels that cover the northern side of the barn. These solar panels provide the whole household with electricity. Using solar panels, energy from the sun is trapped and used to operate the household appliances. This way, energy flows and energy futures are checked. It conserves energy & resources. It also reduces carbon footprint. In this respect, usage of solar power anticipates future energy needs and sources. The house in the southern highlands has several rainwater tanks that draw water from the roof gutters, which offer a 200,000 liters storage volume for use in case of forest fires. This issue of conservation of water protects the water cycle. Putting the water in the tanks conserves water and improves water quality.

The other aspect of this house is the contact with nature. The choice of house location was amazing. Glenn Murcutt designed this house and it was built among trees and green grass in the Southern Highlands. This provided a good view and it was a beautiful sight. This way, it enhanced and increased ecological, social and economic values over time.


While building the house in the southern highlands, Glenn Murcutt had several things in his mind. He had design ideas that would integrate built and natural systems. This would enhance both the design quality and the performance of the environment. There was a lot of innovation in his works, which was an act of excellence. The design also integrates the unique cultural and natural characteristics of Australia. He put into consideration the type of houses he saw while he was growing up.

Having built his houses in places like near the forests or near the rivers, he still cared about the environment. The land use and site ecology were such that there was protection of ecosystems, wildlife and watersheds. In his designs, he considered bioclimatic aspects of the region. Murcutt designed sustainable projects in that the buildings conserved resources. They also maximized comfort through the adaptation of designs to Australia’s climatic conditions.

In his work, he ensured that both energy and water were conserved. He used solar panels to provide electricity instead of using other sources that would have tampered with the environment. These methods include charcoal and geothermal power. He also kept tanks of water where he connected them to the roof gutters. The rainfall water would then be tapped and conserved.

Light and air were also considered in building of this house. Glenn Murcutt made sure that the building had comfortable interior environments that provided daylight, good nature views and fresh air. He did this through the use of shields. His selection of materials was also excellent. He made informed decisions and used steel in external walls, façade, light steel sections and roofing. The type of steel used was both metallic coated and organic coated flat carbon steel.

Through his tactics, Glenn Murcutt put up this building and ended up enhancing and increasing social, ecological and economic value over time. It was a good place for a single family to stay. It had rooms for both children and their parents. Ecologically, the project was environmentally friendly. It resulted in minimal wastage of resources. In fact, resources were conserved in the best way possible. This ensured that the measure of long life loose fit was put in place. Through social and ecological enhancement, the economical part of the system was realized.

It is true that best practices evolve. This is through documented performance and shared knowledge of lessons learned. Murcutt designed the house in the southern highlands and he came up with an amazing building. By following up with various architects, engineers, and contractors, there should be the practice of collective wisdom and feedback loop. This way there will be improvement in each step that is made in the architectural world.


Alvic Philis. Weavers of the Southern Highlands. University Press of Kentucky, 2003.

Hitchcock, Henry Russell. Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. New York: Yale University Press, 1992.

Krier, Léon. Architecture: choice or fate. New York: Papadakis Publisher, 1998.

Murcutt, Glenn, Beck Haig & Cooper Jackie. Glenn Murcutt: a singular architectural practice. New York: Images Publishing, 2002.

Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. Experiencing architecture. New York: MIT Press, 1992

Unwin, Simon. Analysing architecture. London: Taylor & Francis, 2009.

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