Panopticon House

Cape Otway, Victoria

The Panopticon House project investigates the hybridisation of the Neo-classical and Modernist rural villa ideals, exploring notions of the house as figured object versus the disappearing enclosure.

The Panopticon House is located in rural Victoria, on a prominent hilltop with panoramic views across the surrounding landscape, the Great Southern Ocean, Bass Straight and the Tasman Ocean. The site and program are consistent with the classical villa type – the ex-urban retreat amid a bucolic landscape as the antithesis of the city. A key element of the client brief was to minimize interruption to the views beyond the building. The house was in effect to become a device for seeing out – the panopticon, who’s primary function was that of observation. This desire recalls the Farnsworth house, itself arguably a continuation of the classical villa tradition – however with the critical departure of the introduction of the ‘free plan’ into the villa type and the ambition of dissolves the relationship between interiority and exteriority.  Located on the highest point on the site, the Panopticon House adopts these strategies, elongating and folding the free plan back on itself to capture a central courtyard and provide panoramic views in all directions. The pure geometries of the plan; the repeating square figure of the 20x20m square plan, 10x10mt square courtyard and offset square of the south-western terraces, recalls the geometric explorations of the neo-classical ideal, while exhibiting traces of bi-axial symmetry both recalling and departing from this tradition.

The building’s formal articulation is consciously figured, both as a means of articulating the ‘free plan’ interiority, but also in reference to the classical villa type, who’s formal articulation and figure in the landscape was arguably as important as the buildings interiority and programmatic resolution. The formal articulation, is a result of compression/expansion in section to provide spatial articulation within the free plan, introducing both implied programmatic zones and directing the gaze to keys views of the landscape beyond the building.

The Panopticon House project negotiates the seen and the seeing from as a point of departure, hybridising classical and modernist villa typologies to produce a novel third type that negotiates viewing to and viewing from in balanced in conceptual counterpoint.

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