Teorema 012: Sketch plan, Alderton House, 1992, Glenn Murcutt

Sketch plan, Alderton House, 1992, Glenn Murcutt

Glenn Murcutt has a private practice, designing mostly houses that are environmentally sensitive. His architecture expects buildings to respond to their climate and landscape. Awarded the Pritzker Prize in Architecture in 2002, Murcutt works alone, concentrating on small projects where he has greater control of the outcome.
During a family trip, Murcutt was born in London. The family returned to Australia in 1941, where he has lived since. He studied architecture at the University of New South Wales, graduating in 1961. After travels to Europe, he served an apprenticeship with the architectural firm of Anchor, Mortlock, Murray & Wooley until 1969. Strongly influenced by Mies van der Rohe, Murcutt has also studied the vernacular architecture and culture of the indigenous people of Australia. His carefully detailed buildings limit the environmental impact on their sites, “touching the earth lightly.”
A few examples of his published work include: Marika – Alderton House – Yirrkala Community, Eastern Arnheim Land, North Territory; Laurie Short House, Terrey Hills, Sydney; and projects in New South Wales: Magney House, Bingie Bingie; Minerals and Mining Museum, Broken Hill; and Bowral House, Southern Highlands.
This sketch describes a section study for the small Marika Banduk (Alderton) House. Rendered in pencil on “butter paper” (yellow tracing paper), Murcutt envisions the complex integration of structure, environmental controls, and interior space for humans. The techniques show a slow and contemplative hand; expressing the winds as wavy lines becomes an analogy for the movement of air and the movement of the pencil. The deliberate lines study the intensity of the sun and the structure of the roof. The roof has been structured with beams, showing the space between the roofing material and the bracing. The floor, in section, indicates the joists and foundations.
Two footings have been ‘called out’ and a third was added later. This sketch reveals how the building will sit lightly,lifted off the ground.
Other environmental issues are considered throughout the page. Winds from the southeast and northwest have been designated as wavy lines and arrows. Sun angles have been approximated for several times of the year (December 22, March 22, June 22) to help Murcutt design the widths of the overhangs. He was visually testing the amount of shade that would protect the interior of the house. Conscious of the sun’s azimuth and altitude, he has noted the “Latitude 121⁄2° South, 137 Longitude” as a reminder.
The sketch primarily shows the relationship between interior space and the porch. By drawing one figure sitting on the porch, Murcutt reinforces the inside/outside continuance. The figures remind him of the inhabitants, the feeling of the space and the conditions of climate control.
The sketch represents a device to remind Murcutt of pertinent information, to evaluate the information visually, and record the thought process of design.
There is reason to believe that the page was sketched while he was traveling. On the lower right, notes describe his location and musings about his state of mind. He writes: “Flying 39,000ft. over Ankara Turkey; listening to Bach; clear sunny day; 22:50hr Sydney time.”
Pencil sketch on butter (trace) paper, 26×37 cms.
Text and image from Kendra Schank Smith, Architects Drawings, Architectural Press, Oxford, 2005

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