Chris Moller 002

Ask our architect Chris Moller


Grand Designs Australia magazine Editor-at-large, Chris Moller, talks context and homes

Q: How important is landscape in relation to a structure’s design process?
A: A good understanding of the landscape and context of a building is very important in the design process to help define how and where to best site and orientate the building in relationship with the lie of the land, optimise views and inform the design for sun and wind across different seasons. But with more in-depth knowledge, this can be taken to another level — compare it to the difference between a motorboat and a sailing yacht. A sailing yacht is more reliant on nature and therefore more deeply connected to its context because this is essential to get around. The big advantage of sailing is that it has minimal impact on the environment, achieving its goal in a lean and efficient way using free wind energy. Our buildings could be more like this by using renewable energies and materials as well as being more responsive and in-tune with their environments.

Q: How can landscape dictate or influence a home’s aesthetic and presence?
A: The influence of landscape has everything to do with the way you look at it and understanding what is going on. The deeper you look, the more you see and the better you understand the processes of the land and how various species adapt to survive in that habitat. There are many ways it can provide insight or inspiration, from understanding how certain shapes or forms work in a particular climate to how textures and colours provide practical detail or delight. Equally, in an urban context, looking closely to learn how certain materials or building types perform can reveal many interesting surprises and unique qualities to learn from or be inspired by.

Q: Does the context of a home limit its potential or boost it?
A: Context is everything. It can be an extreme limit or a hidden potential. For example, a cliff-side location for most means trouble and expense, which is why it is so often avoided. But choosing to embrace its hidden potential can turn it into an opportunity for creative invention. Several of the projects in this series have done just this. The most extreme is the 45 Degree House in Wellington, which Nic Ballara thought about from first principles and dared to
do things differently.


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Originally from Grand Designs Australia magazine, Volume 5 Issue 1