Winding your way up along a creek in rural Australia, you round a corner and encounter a structure. It looks less like a house and much more like a remnant piece of railroad, cut off from old tracks on either side and covered with pieces of recycled metal. Yet strangely, it seems to fit perfectly in with its surroundings – more a modern ruin than an intrusive abode, until you get close enough to realize it is a modestly-sized but cozy-looking contemporary home.

Building in a perfect location is a bit of a paradox: how do you construct something new without interrupting the existing environment and disturbing the natural processes on an architectural site with a winding river, rocky banks and lovely red gum trees all around.

Set in the wilds of the Outback, this home by architect Max Pritchard (photos by Sam Noonan) sits like a slice of metal bridgework on a rigid truss frame that provides incredible structural stability with extremely thin and minimalist supports.

This use of a ‘heavy’ material also embodies (and resolves) a curious contraction – taking a heavy product of industry and making it feel light and organic, at least for a dull gray substance mostly associated with manufacturing.

The aesthetics of its elemental framework are carried through in both color and consistency through the window frames and trim of the house, and the metalwork is echoed in corrugated metal exterior siding and adjustable steel sun shades. Long and narrow on the site, the bridge form also serves to take maximum advantage of indirect northern and direct southern sunlight for both passive heat and natural illumination.

“The clients required a permanent home/office on their small property, located one hour’s drive from Adelaide. A bend in the winter creek that divides the property, creates a billabong (a deep waterhole) bounded by a high rocky bank. A house was required that would allow appreciation of the site without spoiling its beauty, but at a budget comparable with a ‘prefabricated’ dwelling or an ‘off the plan’ developers design (approximately (A$220,000).”