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Pavilions by the bay

Photography: Anjie Blair

Pavilions by the bay

Photography: Anjie Blair
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This once-in-a-lifetime build for Tasmania was named the 2023 HIA-CSR Australian Home of the Year. Step inside the surreal beauty of the Tinderbox Residence by Lane Group Construction.

Laura Valic

Editor

When your new waterfront parcel of land boasts an underground wine cellar with a 100-metre tunnel that opens out at the base of a jagged sandstone headland, you know you’re standing on something remarkable. 

The owners of this unique site situated at Tinderbox, a 30-minute drive south of Hobart, revelled in its potential and tasked architect Maria Gigney from Studio Ilk to design a family home worthy of the spectacular location.

Tinderbox Residence was named the 2023 HIA-CSR Australian Home of the Year

The project would prove to be formidable. Tinderbox Residence, as it’s known, was envisaged to embrace its south-facing position overlooking the River Derwent in a series of sleek pavilions – commercial-sized in scale and formed with more than 700 tonnes of blasted stone. The earthy material, combined with burnished concrete, steel and spotted gum shiplap cladding, would anchor the new property to its bushland setting to withstand whatever time and the environment threw at it.

HIA member Michael Lane and his team of Hobart-based Lane Group Construction were charged with bringing this special concept to life. The award-winning building firm specialises in high-end residential and commercial projects, though the scope of the build was unlike anything Michael had experienced in his three decades working in the industry.

‘It was the most complex job we’ve ever done, but also the most harmonious,’ he says. ‘Everyone who was involved worked collaboratively with the clients. We were all striving towards the same result since we recognised how important the project was.’

A team of masons worked with 700 tonnes of stone for the project
Other materials included steel, concrete and spotted gum shiplap cladding

The first challenge was excavating such a large site for the single-level house to stretch along the cliff’s edge. Its position brought a number of constraints to work through. ‘We couldn’t get cranes all the way around the property, so they had to sit at the back and swing over the materials,’ Michael explains. ‘This made it difficult when putting in the large glass panels.’

The owners naturally desired a space that would connect them closely to their magnificent surroundings, so the design focused on wrapping the building in expansive full-length windows and doors to provide unfettered water views from nearly every room. 

Expansive glass panels provide unfettered water views
The solar passive house is incredibly energy efficient

A connection to site was also achieved in another way: one of the low-lying structures between the public and private pavilions includes a masterfully engineered indoor/outdoor pool. Its waterfall edge cantilevers in a dramatic fashion, allowing users to feel like they are swimming out among the tree canopies.

Essentially, the timber-clad pool house is permanently open to the elements but is protected by a nifty automatic sliding door that rolls over the water to close off the facilities (such as a shower, sauna and spa) so they can be enjoyed in all weather conditions.

Partially indoor and out, the pool gives the home significant wow factor
The pool cantilevers dramatically towards the cliff edge

Michael says they worked with an engineer to ensure the pool was going to hold up structurally but admits the process was nerve-wracking. 

‘We had to allow the concrete to cure enough before we filled and tested it over a period of about a month,’ he explains. ‘This let the weight of the water sag to the end of the pool to guarantee a level wet-edge water line once tiled. We were concerned it would snap off and tumble down the cliff face. I’m glad it didn’t!’ he adds, laughing. 

The home features a full-sized billiards room and library
With multiple outdoor spaces, this home is a true entertainer’s domain

The Tinderbox Residence’s wow factor derives from a rare combination of both extraordinary and understated features, with internal access from the house to the underground wine cellar and tunnel arguably making the biggest impact. Hidden is a glazed lift that drops down the illuminated 15-metre shaft to the tune of 007 theme music (what else?).

Michael says they removed an existing spiral staircase to make this area more accessible. ‘It’s a usable space for them to store and serve their wine collection. It’s considered part of the house,’ he says. ‘The owner’s son is a professional musician and has even recorded an album down there because the acoustics are so good.’

The home includes access to an underground wine cellar and tunnel which opens out at the base of the foreshore
With the home morphing into an escapist’s fantasy, equal consideration was given to comfort and practicality to suit the owners’ retirement lifestyle. Here, their dogs could have free rein inside and they could entertain their extended family and friends regularly. Durable materials were chosen, such as Maximum marbled porcelain for the kitchen benchtops, ceramic tiles for the door/drawer fronts and Techlam tiles for the bathrooms. This simple palette allows the strength of the abundant stonework (the result of 15 months onsite labour by a team of masons), the timber cladding and burnished concrete floors to shine.
The kitchen features Maximum porcelain for the benchtops and joinery
The home is comfortable and practical to suit the owners’ retirement lifestyle

‘These materials were necessary for thermal efficiency and fire safety, but they will also develop a lived-in patina and contribute to the acoustic balance of the spaces,’ Michael says. ‘Thermal breaks to all internal areas and well-insulated walls, floors and ceilings allow the geo-thermal-fed hydronic slab heating to also operate efficiently.’

After two-and-a-half years, construction was completed in October 2021 to the immense relief and satisfaction of all parties. Lane Group Construction has now received an armful of HIA awards for Tinderbox Residence, with the biggest gong – the 2023 HIA-CSR Australian Home of the Year award – presented to them on 20 May at the 2023 HIA-CSR Australian Housing Awards.

 
L-R: Lane Group Construction’s Michael and Perry Lane with CSR's Paul Manks

According to Stuart Collins, HIA Tasmania Executive Director, the home is a remarkable example of the exceptional workmanship available in Tasmania. ‘The judges could not fault the home’s quality despite the build involving the highest degree of difficulty,’ he says.

For Michael, as he looks back at this pivotal time in his career, he’s left somewhat awestruck by the risk his business took on accepting the project. He also acknowledges the level of dedication and capability displayed by his team, in particular his brother and foreman Perry Lane and leading hand Alec Newnham.

‘It was a big undertaking but I’m glad our wonderful clients trusted us with this beautiful build,’ he says. ‘Perry and Alec ensured every detail was perfect, spending many hours at night thinking about how to do things. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have gotten the outcome we did.

‘To win the HIA-CSR Australian Home of the Year is amazing. You don’t often get the opportunity to build a house of this scale that can compete with those constructed on the mainland. It feels like we’ve won a Gold Logie!’

The design and building teams collaborated with the clients on every detail
The judges could not fault the quality of the home’s workmanship

At a glance

Builder

Lane Group Construction

Architect

Studio Ilk

Location

Tinderbox, Tasmania

Project manager

Michael Lane

Awards

2023 HIA-CSR Australian Home of the Year | HIA Australian Custom Built Home | HIA Australian Outdoor Project

Partnered by

CSR, ActronAir and James Hardie

Materials

First published on 29 May 2023.

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