Magney House: Dial M for Murcutt

Magney House (1984) | Glenn Murcutt. New South Wales, Australia

The Magney House stands out as a highlight piece by renowned Australian architect, Glenn Murcutt. It is spatially structured, compartmentalising different functions while keeping them all in a single open space. The Magney House is the epitome of elemental architecture; showcasing the regionalist ideals of Murcutt and his contemporaries. It expresses his interest in the need for harmony between man and nature, while responding to it’s surrounding landscape and climate.

Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984
Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984

I cannot pursue my architecture without considering the minimization of energy consumption, simple and direct technologies, a respect for site, climate, place and culture. Together, these disciplines represent for me a fantastic platform for experimentation and expression. Of particular importance is the junction of the rational and the poetic resulting hopefully in works that resonate and belong to where they reside. ” – Glenn Murcutt

Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984
Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984

The site is situated on a breathtaking landscape between the ocean and a mountain range, with a nearby lake to the north. It seemingly has nothing around it for miles, and with an imagination it gives one the feeling that a random tent had been pitched for the night by lost trekkers. The building is a single pavilion divided by a central court, operating as two self contained suites, one for the parents, the other for guests or family.

Lounge and Court. Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984
Lounge and Court. Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984

The main ordering structure is a split between ‘served’ and ‘service’ spaces. Typically, large rooms with rear service facilities are divided by a lower circulation zone rendering a functional distinction between the two. The implied internal corridor supports an oversized gutter which connects at either end to two large single downpipes. In this way both the functional hierarchy of the house and the collection of rainwater are given symbolic representation in the east and west elevations.

Roof detail. Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984
Roof detail. Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984

The striking roof form showcases Murcutt’s development of a pavilion type with a distinct front and back and this dominant spatial orientation is primarily developed in relation to climatic considerations.

Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984
Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984

The open northern face is treated as a glazed sliding screen with adjustable and retractable external louvres. The large angled roof overhang shades the building from summer sun and allows winter sun access. In sharp contrast, the lower rear wall facing the predominant southerly winds is largely closed and is constructed of reverse brick veneer.

Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984
Magney House. Glenn Murcutt. 1984

Many students of architecture will testify that Glenn Murcutt inspired their earliest appreciation of elemental form and space. The Magney house has been recognized internationally as an exemplar of outstanding architecture because it showcases a refreshing degree of simplicity yet expresses complex nuances in its spatial composition. Murcutt’s masterpiece stands as a precursor to “green” architecture which was underpinned by “back-to-basics” principles of passive design.

*quotes and excerpts from “Ozetecture” and “The Architecture of Glenn Murcutt”