Reconnecting to the Land on Weekends to Recharge

Words by Anthony Richardson

After spending the working week in the city, sometimes you feel the need to escape and reconnect with the land. That’s what MRTN Architects looked to do with Nulla Vale House and Shed for this busy city couple, reconnect them with land and country.


Have you ever taken a drive out to Nulla Vale? If not, you head north, slightly west, mainly taking Melbourne-Lancefield Road. You will go from high density and skyscrapers of the city, to the medium density inner-suburbs, then as you drive past the airport you start to see the volume-built suburbs which then transitions into small rural communities. As you’re driving between communities you may see across the landscape agricultural buildings and early settler dwellings. And there is something about these structures, whether it’s the simplicity of the structure or pure functionality of shelter. MRTN Architects wanted to create a connection between land and building, referencing Australia’s rich history of connection to the land.

The clients approached MRTN Architects with a brief where they wanted a ‘back to basics’ retreat, a place to escape from the city to each weekend, a place to be ground and reconnect with the land. “Our clients are intending to eventually build their full time home on this land. But to begin with they asked for a place to be able to stay, a basic dwelling with the minimum of amenity.” MRTN Architects explains, “Somewhere they could spend weekends as they make a connection to the land and begin their caretaking period of the site.” As a result, MRTN Architects’ design anticipated the final home, however it doesn’t predetermine anything. On top of that, the clients needed a shed to house the equipment they use to care for the land, and the PV panels and batteries.

The final design is made of two buildings, the Shed and House. In terms of overall dimensions, both buildings are identical, and while they also share the familiar gable-ended form typically associated with sheds, they both boast their own individuality and personality when you get up close. MRTN Architects worked with a local shed fabrication, and cladded the Shed in its entirety in heritage grade corrugated galvanised iron. The Shed is is orientated to maximise efficiency for the PV panels, allowing maximum solar exposure during each season.

The House is quite a contrast, constructed with salvaged bricks, corrugated iron and rough sawn timber. The bricks are left exposed internally, which when combined with the pre-engineered timber trusses, it creates a rich texture space full of volume. Part of the client’s brief was that the house would be like an ‘old shed’, and so internally there is no plasterboard, no paint, instead what you see outside is what you get inside. Not wanting to be removed from the site, the house allows the clients to connect to place and the land which it sits on, but still provide shelter from the elements.

The interior is deliberately designed to evoke the experience of sleeping out in a shed. An antithesis to the clean white city home of our clients providing a warm and textured retreat for them to escape to.
— MRTN Architects
Site sketch

Site sketch

Floor plan

Floor plan


Project Name _ Nulla Vale House and Shed
Architect _
MRTN Architects |
Location _
Nulla Vale
Area _ 50m²
Project Completed _ 2018
Project Budget _ $250,000
Photographer _
Peter Bennetts |

Published with BowerBird

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