THE SHEARERS QUARTERS

John Wardle Architects
Established 1986, Melbourne, Victoria

John Wardle established John Wardle Architects in Melbourne in 1986. Over the years his practice has developed a reputation for designs that evolve from a site’s landscape, topography and history. The result is an architecture closely integrated into its place and environment, which reveals the individual characters of each client and their aspirations.

The Shearers quarters is located on a historic farming property on North Bruny Island, on land first granted to Captain James Kelly in 1840. It is a companion building to an existing historic cottage on a sheep farm owned and worked by the Wardle family. Built on the site of the original shearing shed, the 130m2 building has been tailored to the landscape, aligning exactly with both the fall of the land to the south and the line of the original shed along its north.

The exterior of the building is formed from corrugated, galvanised iron. For Wardle, the timber interior was a project that allowed him to take inspiration from the history of the region. He sourced macrocarpa pine  – from trees that were planted by farmers in the early 20th century as windbreaks to protect their land – for the majority of the interior lining. After their 100-year lifespan, the following generations of farmers would send these fallen trees to the local sawmill, and stored the processed planks in their sheds. Knowing this, John was able to source enough timber from nine different farms to process and fit into the building’s design.

The cross-sectional bedroom walls of the house are lined using timber sourced from old orchards of the Huon Valley. When the UK joined the European Common Market in the early 1970s, Tasmania’s apple export industry fell into rapid decline. Wardle visited these orchards’ sheds and discovered untouched time warps to the fallen industry: stacks of unused 40-year-old Southern blue gum, Tasmanian ash and even Tasmanian myrtle, sawn ready to make into apple crates. Over the years, he collected these thin timbers, and was able to design an ingenious solution for their use in this project.

The Shearers quarters is very much a building aligned with the context of its history and landscape. For Wardle, the thrill has been in the realisation of this personal project, and the unique solutions employed in its design.