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Natural fit: Highgate Hill house finds perfect blend to win top design award

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A Highgate Hill house has been judged the state’s best example of residential architecture, picking up the Robin Dods award at this week’s Australian Institute of Architects’ Queensland Architecture Awards.

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Riverbank House, perched above the St Lucia reach of the Brisbane River, mixes the traditional Queenslander style of housing with modern design that blends into the surrounding landscape.

The house was completed last year after the owners opted to buy the original property, built in the 1940s, when their previous Clayfield home tragically burned down.

Designed by local firm Wilson Architects, the house is anchored by a “ribbon” of concrete which acts as both a wall and a fence line.

The 252 square metre property sits high above the water, with views through trees to the south and unimpeded north views and an understorey evoking that of a high-set Queenslander.

The principal design idea was to find a way of connecting a capturing the property’s northern courtyard landscape to its wilder, more expansive southern boundary.

A timber “brise-soleil”, or sun shade, wraps the elevated bedrooms, modulating daylight and privacy, while dramatically presenting the home to the street.

Wilson Architects Managing Director Hamilton Wilson said the clients wanted their home to be deeply connected to the riparian site.

“You rarely get a river, a significant heritage riverbank and an easement down on one side of the property that is fully landscaped as well,” he said.

“A lot of the buildings we do have a very strong landscape idea about them.

“The idea of the landscape is sometimes stronger than the idea of the house, but that becomes the house in essence.”

Award judge Dirk Yates said the house was an example of “biophilic” design, which encourages direct connection to the natural environment.

“Riverbank House is orchestrated between the steep landscape of the river edge and a private courtyard for a family in a suburban setting,” he said.

“The maintenance of remnant stairs and garden walls, along with the integration of native plantings, firmly imbed the new building into the historically layered landscape.”

Riverbank House is now eligible for the Australian Institute of Architects’ National Awards, to be announced later this year.

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