The Longhouse is a study in inclusion where a boutique farm, garden kitchen, cooking school, reception venue and home are consolidated within a single 110m long mannered shed. Internalising all agricultural and hospitality activities under one enormous roof is a masterstroke that provides a purpose-aligned container for living, learning and entertaining as well as nurturing animals and fresh produce.
Located six minutes north of Daylesford in central Victoria, the elevated property looks out over vast plains and bushland. Ronnen and Trace fell in love with the 20-acre parcel of land for its captivating views overlooking Daylesford, Hepburn Springs, and Mt Franklin. Here, they could envisage a new rural life together where their interests in food, family, design, and ideas would converge. As much as the expansive vistas enchant, the couple quickly discovered the challenges of extreme temperature variations, strong winds from all directions, lack of water, and ravenous local wildlife.
The loose brief evolved over successive discussions and visits to the property. According to Timothy, the environment is beautiful but hostile. Initial site investigations revealed a local population of grazing fauna, aggressive weather conditions, sporadic rainfall and shallow planting depths. In response, he proposed a giant greenhouse whose built form would be ‘big enough and protected enough for the landscape to flourish, inside’.
The poetic and immensely comfortable outcome is the result of highly rational and deductive moves. The Longhouse’s 1050sqm roof harvests every drop of precious rainwater, which is collected in 340,000 litre capacity tanks, some for on-demand use and others for firefighting. Timothy used complex algorithms to calculate the optimal roof area to capture the amount of water required to grow the garden and be ample for everyday use as well as plentiful for the cooking school. The strategy to profoundly enlarge the roof harvesting capacity proves an equal match for water demand and bushfire defence.
Revitalising pastoral shed vernacular, the industrial superstructure sits on minimal footings with a gravel floor. Economy and sustainability underpin the project. The Longhouse is built to passive house standards with very few heating and cooling inputs and has off-grid ambitions with provision for solar panelling and battery storage.
Within the shed’s translucent glass-reinforced polyester skin, an oasis flourishes. Smart gel-coated cladding provides different levels of UV and infrared resistance and panels with different finishes have been deployed to optimise solar penetration and shading depending on the orientation of each façade and roof plane. Thermal performance stabilises temperatures inside year-round so there is warmth in winter and a cooling effect in summer. Large openings and high fenestration frame views of the surroundings and skies, and control ventilation. Agricultural advances have been harnessed for crop yields and building efficiency.
Arriving into the property from atop a crest means the first sighting of The Longhouse is at a distance. The building forms a datum line in the middle ground, echoing the horizon beyond. Continue along the winding drive and the building disappears behind dense trees. Once it re-emerges, visitors can see straight through the open portal to the countryside beyond. Gentle landscaping of mounds and miniature hills softens the rectilinear form. Planting schemes establish adjacent areas as orchards.
Entering from the western end into the store and garaging, little is given away until one moves past the tractors and farm machinery through barn doors into a surprisingly lush haven. Inside, generous verdant reception areas bookend the central kitchen and cooking school, providing a nuanced setting for casual dining, formal ceremonies, and memorable occasions. The immense internal volume is modulated by timber and brick insertions laced with foliage. Planting beds, triffid-sized trees, The Lodge (owner’s residence), and The Stableman’s Quarters (guest house nestled in a mezzanine pod) are all contained within this protective sanctuary.