Architectural Details: The Great Wall of WA

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Due to their efficient thermal mass, subterranean structures are well-suited in locations that experience extreme temperatures, making this building typology ideal for the tropical climate of northwestern Australia. The concealed nature of such designs limits the opportunity for architectural expression and bold aesthetic style, but local firm Luigi Rosselli Architects proved this need not be the case with their design for 12 new dwellings in a remote part of Australia’s largest state.

great wall of wa

The Great Wall of WA is named for its defining feature, a 755-foot-long (230-meter) wall of rammed earth that the architects say is the longest of its kind on the continent and possibly the whole of the southern hemisphere. The wall, made from a locally sourced mix of sandy clay and gravel, forms a serrated rift in the landscape with private niches creating the entrance porch of each home.

Corten steel canopies have been inserted into each undulating fold in the wall, providing ample shade for the floor-to-ceiling glazing at the front of each residence. Inside, modern living spaces possess finishes with a surprising level of sophistication for dwellings that are used for only part of the year, occupied by workers at a cattle station during the mustering season.

The raw, textured tone of Corten is carried through to the distinctive conical roof of a multifunctional pavilion located upon the dune that can be used as both a meeting room and a chapel, depending on the needs of those living in the area. Meanwhile, gold anodized aluminum sheets clad the tapered ceiling of the building, adding a dash of luxury within this raw, windswept landscape.

The rich brown hues of the Corten steel and the terra cotta shades of the rammed earth wall itself allow the dwellings to harmoniously blend with the earthen coloring of the Australian Outback. Fragments of complementary landscaping — including native planting and manicured grass lawns — offer residents a respite from the dusty scrubland surrounding the development.

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