Retrofutures: The Trunk House
December 20, 2011
Laugier famously posited his variation on the Vitruvian primitive hut as the originator of all architectural form and tectonics. Rather than an indiscriminate assemblage of forested materials, Laugier’s hut was rendered as a fully developed (i.e. rational) work of architecture, with all architectural devices, from the column to ornament, purported to proceed from its structural logic. In Laugier’s frontispiece gnarled branches are forced into a trabeated system so as to more easily make the ideological transition from the vertical tree limb to the stone column. The Trunk House reverses this process, taking the industrial truss as a starting point that is then formally and structurally abstracted using natural materials, in this case, Stringybark trees. Continue.
Located amid a small forest in Australia’s Central Highlands, the Trunk House’s most striking feature is its hybrid composition of seemingly primitive and contemporary components. Designed by Paul Morgan Architects, the house’s structural system is comprised of naturally formed “tree forks” which were salvaged from the local logging industry. The tree forks, whose bifurcated joints lend themselves naturally to the triangulated structure, are set in aesthetic counterpoint to the glass enclosure and sleek, treated all-wood surfaces. The autonomous truss-like frames connects the house to the sloping forest floor, while supporting the overhanging roof above.
The trees that had been cleared for the construction of the home were reused for the interior surfaces. An on-site milling machine milled and cured the felled logs into lining boards, which were then immediately fixed into place to create walls, floors, and built-in furniture. According to the architects, the process, which reduced the project’s overall carbon footprint, was just part of their desire to “achieve an almost transparent relationship with the surrounding forest, achieved through an eco-morphological transformation of ground fuel into structure.”