Architecture practice Das Studio has designed a one-bedroom luxury retreat for its director’s shared startup ESCA, which builds, transports, leases and maintains five-star eco accommodation in beautiful rural destinations where construction access is limited. ‘We work with landowners to provide guest suites that allow them to generate extra income from their land,’ explains Das Studio founder Sara Horstmann. ‘The idea is to provide premium-quality, off-grid retreats that are built efficiently offsite, then transported to remote locations where materials and labour are in short supply.’
In 2018, the team worked with the landowners of a beautiful working vineyard in Blewitt Springs, south of Adelaide, to develop an immersive retreat in harmony with the property’s existing architecture. A year later, the vineyard approached them for a second suite. ‘The new design draws on the golden afternoon light of its site,’ says Sara. ‘After building it in a facility in Adelaide, we then transported it to site, timing it for minimum disruption at the vineyard. The retreat is bespoke and luxurious – internally it’s very hard to tell it is a prefabricated building.’
The suite has a compact footprint, its size dictated by the limitations of cranage and transportation. With 47 square metres internally and a 23-square-metre exterior deck, it caters to changing weather conditions and sunlight orientation through the seasons. Floor-to-ceiling glazing provides 270-degree views to the vineyard and adjacent farmland.
The build’s impact on the natural environment was substantially reduced by a limited construction time on site (approximately one month for earthworks, wastewater systems, above-ground footings, delivery and commissioning). Designed to be self-sufficient, the retreat harvests water that is used across the site, and has an aerobic wastewater system, while high-performance materials and systems reduce energy input.
Internally the amenities compare to those of a five-star hotel, with a full kitchen, space for living, a bedroom, hidden laundry amenities, storeroom, underfloor heating and a wood-burning fire. A central plinth between the main living and sleeping areas allows for views of the vines beyond, and acts as a fire enclosure, wood store, television backdrop and bedhead.
‘We needed a textural product that would be durable and easy to maintain,’ says Das Studio's Sara Horstmann about their McLaren Vale retreat. ‘The Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding looks just like natural render and matches our design vision perfectly.’
The interior is designed to connect with the textures and colours of the surrounding site – golden late-afternoon sun, vine leaves after harvest – adding warmth into the building. Honey-toned chevron oak floors reference the French influence of the vineyard’s existing accommodation, while walls are lined with Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding and complemented with battens in Tasmanian oak that have been stained to match the floorboards.
Das Studio’s innovative use of Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding as an interior lining was driven by function, cost and looks. A robust solution that takes the knocks of its hospitality setting, the fibre-cement based panel requires minimal maintenance. The full-height (2.7-metre) pre-textured panels are installed with a vertical batten that ‘wraps’ from the ceiling down the walls. The panel module and the render-look finish have a subtle Japanese aesthetic. ‘Visually, the texture of the walls catches the light and transforms the space across the day,’ says Sara. ‘You can also paint it in any colour. In this interior, we have used Dulux Natural White™.
‘We needed a textural product that could withstand the bumps and scratches that inevitably occur in tourism accommodation, yet would still look at home alongside premium finishes,’ she explains. ‘It would deliver the texture and tactility of Venetian plaster products, but be durable and easier to maintain. We are very happy with the end result, because the Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding looks just like natural render and matches our design vision perfectly.’
Das Studio’s innovative use of Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding as an interior lining for a McLaren Vale retreat was driven by function, cost and looks. A robust solution that takes the knocks of its hospitality setting, the fibre-cement based panel requires minimal maintenance.
The lightweight panels are easy to handle and durable for transportation. ‘A prefabricated building can sometimes sit on a truck for up to nine hours while it’s being moved to site, and is often transported as a finished product,’ explains Sara. ‘Materials and finishes need to cope with movement, as you can’t always easily fix transportation damage once on site in a remote area.’
The construction timeline for our ESCA suites is fast – close to 10 weeks compared to a standard six to nine months – with the site works happening concurrently. The panelised product by James Hardie simplified the build and meant that fewer trades were required to complete the project.
Architect: Das Studio
Photographer: Anthony Basheer
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