Sawmill House by Archier is built on an Australian gold mine

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Sawmill House is a reclaimed-concrete home for a sculptor on an old Australian gold mine

Sculptor Benjamin Gilbert worked with architecture studio Archier to build his own family house on a former gold mine and sawmill, using reclaimed concrete blocks and rough-sawn macrocarpa wood (+ slideshow).

Sawmill house by Archier

Located in Yackandandah, a small Australian town halfway between Melbourne and Canberra, the single-storey Sawmill House is an upgrade of a sculpture studio that the artist created on the site seven years previously.

Sawmill house by Archier

He enlisted the help of his brother Chris – one of the three founders of Melbourne-based Archier – to transform the old studio into a residence with a hand-crafted aesthetic, featuring indoor and outdoor living spaces, and views over the valley landscape.

Sawmill house by Archier

The site was originally established as a gold mine but had later been repurposed as a saw mill.

"The sawmill had been a feature of our childhoods and by some chance my brother acquired the block in 2005," explained Chris Gilbert. "Over the following seven years we often spoke about potential upgrades to the tool-sharpening shed he had cleared out to make a bedroom."


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Concrete blocks were chosen as the main construction material for the house. Each weighing approximately one tonne, these blocks were a byproduct of other construction projects in the region and would otherwise have gone to waste.

Sawmill house by Archier

The team used exactly 270 blocks to construct the walls of the rectangular building. They were left exposed wherever possible, creating rough surfaces inside and out.

Sawmill house by Archier

"The use of the reclaimed concrete blocks is an experiment in harnessing the thousands of tonnes of concrete that goes to waste each year," said Chris. "Each block is a byproduct of excess concrete left in trucks, poured into rough steel troughs."

Sawmill house by Archier

"Each of the one-tonne concrete blocks that form the perimeter of the dwelling's walls has a story – a bridge, a footpath, a home – and create a patchwork of colour and texture across the facades," he said.

"This texture grounds the building in the site, as the layers of colour mimic the sedimentary layers of earth still exposed from the site's former life as a gold mine."

Sawmill house by Archier

The house was originally intended as a home for Benjamin alone, but his situation later changed – so the original design has to be adapted to suit a couple with a young child.

"The birth of a baby not only hurried progress, but also pushed child-friendly design changes to be made," said Chris.

Sawmill house by Archier

The house now comprises an open-plan space that can be subdivided if necessary to offer more privacy. A nine-metre-wide door allows the living space to open out to a large veranda, which can be exposed or sheltered from the elements by rolling back a section of the roof.

Sawmill house by Archier

The rough-sawn macrocarpa wood was used for flooring, ceilings and joinery, referencing the old saw mill, while the kitchen was finished with sheets of patinated brass to create golden hues, in tribute to the former mine.

Sawmill house by Archier

"Timber for the project was sourced locally – we had great support from the local supplier who fell and milled the timber just up the road from the site," said Chris.

Sawmill house by Archier

"And after some experimentation we all agreed that a thin patinated brass sheet would provide a beautiful glow and add texture to the space, while referencing the precious metals that were extracted from the site," he added.

Sawmill house by Archier

Pivoting doors reveal the master bedroom at the end of the plan, which opens out to a sheltered courtyard. The bathroom comprises a deck that runs along the rear of the bedroom, and features a copper sink.

Sawmill house by Archier

All of the furniture for the house was custom built by the design team. This includes the wood-framed sofas in the living space, as well as the picnic-bench style dining table and lighting fixtures.

Sawmill house by Archier

"Our young family of three can now live comfortably and safely within the industrial zone," explained Benjamin Gilbert.

"Large operable veranda, screens and doors transform the space to suit various climatic and social conditions, which is crucial to our family who must operate in a diverse and sometimes extreme climate, and direct our home through a spectrum of private retreat to communal hub," he added.

Photography is by Ben Hosking.

Sawmill house by Archier
Floor plan – click for larger image