Dunn & Hill Architects have designed Dogtrot House in New South Wales, Australia for a family of committed campers.
The Dogtrot House is a permanent campsite. The form of this building can be traced back to the early one room cabins that were built by farmers and fishermen. As the family grew another cabin would be built and connected with a common roof. During the evolution of the design for the house I was re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which made reference to the vernacular ‘dog trot’ houses of the american south.
The name comes from when the “old dog was too hot to trot”, the covered breezeway provided the perfect escape from t!he heat of the day. We realised with some joy that this is what we had.
The house represents an upgrade for the clients, who are a family of long term and committed campers. They asked us to design them a holiday house up the road from one of their favourite campsites on the south coast of NSW. Their brief was; everything they loved about camping, without the pack up at the end of every holiday; a permanent, civilised campsite.
The resulting building is a low impact, compact arrangement of three discrete rooms around a kitchen and campfire. Two roofs shelter the pavilions with an open bathroom sleeved between. Separating the pavilions is the wide, open-ended “dogtrot” corridor.
The rooms are separate but in a strong relationship to one another and the landscape, like a family of tents at a campsite. The space made in the centre is for gathering, eating, reading and is open to the landscape and the breeze. One has no choice but to be outside when moving between rooms, in this way one is always made aware of the landscape and the weather.
Architects are rarely presented with an opportunity to site their buildings with the delicacy and deep understanding of place that is evident in the Indigenous Australian camp and subsequently the vernacular structures of the early settlers. This project gave us that opportunity and the detailed design and material choices were all informed by this. Overall we were concerned with making an appropriate response to the place, the clients brief and the budget all of which were modest, simple but not straightforward.
The Dogtrot house is a house that is everything you need and nothing you don’t. It is humble, poetic and without pretence.
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