The desire to experience security and natural beauty simultaneously is universal. It seems that nobody knows better than architect James Russell.

James Russell has a knack for creating beautiful homes that allow their inhabitants to totally enjoy their natural surrounds. Through planning and material selection, he strikes a fine balance in recreating nature’s duality of comfort and exposure in the home. Alongside an impressive list of local and state titles, he has taken out national titles (Housing Awards and Australian Institute of Architects Awards) for three different house designs.

Mitti Street House, on the eastern edge of Little Cove bordering Noosa National Park, is Russell’s latest work and is no exception. Borrowing from his inspired and award winning design of Oxlade House in Brisbane (National Award and People’s Choice Award, AIA, 2014), Russell has employed great expanses of black shade cloth, stretching across both the roof and walls of the pavilions, courtyard and verandah. This simple gesture gives the inhabitants the

ability to experience all elements of the subtropical climate (without the mosquitoes) in total comfort. Essentially, Russell describes the house as “a large screened verandah in the rainforest”. Indeed it is such a practical response to the tropical and subtropical climates of Queensland that it should be employed on houses throughout the state.

The importance of greenery in design cannot be underestimated. The shade cloth has allowed Russell to bring the garden into the building envelope, creating an intimate internal rainforest. The interior landscaping provides privacy from close-set neighbours, allowing inhabitants to enjoy the internal pool in total privacy.

Home to a family of five, including three young children, the house is generously designed to allow flexible entertaining for friends and family who often come to stay during holidays. Working the design process with an engineer, Russell whittled the design down from the original tensioned structure plan to a simple, lighter plan that has its roots in a concrete ground living plane.

This ground level is for living, entertaining and bathing. Russell has visualised this space as “a series of modest pavilions or ‘fibro shacks’ of a sort, [that] make camp around the edges of the central gathering space and pool”. In the large, open kitchen, cooking happens under the open sky.

Bedrooms are found on the upper level and also take on the “modest hardwood timber and fibro shack” aesthetic, in reference to a bygone era of Queensland coastal architecture. Hardwood timber used throughout brings a rich hue to the palette, while the sky, which is so visible and prominent within the design, will always set the tone.

Environmentally, Mitti Street House has been designed to withstand up to a century of sun, rain and floods that come with the terrain. It is elevated enough to withstand the flash flooding that occurs during monsoonal rain. On a day-to-day cycle, and throughout changing seasons, it is designed to be passively heated or cooled without the need for airconditioning or heating.


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