Superhouse – The Exhibition

What makes a superhouse?

Exactly what makes a superhouse is a question that we at Modern House obsess over daily. For some it’s about a sculptural form in the landscape that signals a certain style of inhabitation. For others, it’s the flow of spaces, crafted details, and perhaps the play of light. Many might describe it in more intimate terms, responding to how a house ‘makes you ‘feel’.

Opening on August 29 at the Museum of Sydney is an exhibition that invites us all to think about what ‘superhouse’ means to us, by inviting us into some of the world’s most unique dwellings. Curated by Karen McCartney, the exhibition springs from her book Superhouse, published by Lantern in 2014.With photographer Richard Powers, she presents a collection of awe‑inspiring homes, local and international — from a prefabricated house in The Netherlands designed overnight, to a reborn 12th-century castle, but the exhibition doesn’t simply replicate the book, it opens the dialogue with new content and audiovisuals.

The book isn’t thematic, but the exhibition groups houses under themes such as Small Spaces,Rooftops & Skylines, The Land, and Finding Form. Additional material includes Australian projects from the curator’s wish list, that don’t appear in the hardcover publication, along with audio interviews with project architects and new video from local design identities,. expressing what ‘superhouse’ means to them’.

“We asked a few local architects (like James Stockwell, Clinton Murray and Virginia Kerridge) and media personalities like Tim Ross and Neil Whitaker what a superhouse means to them, and caught it on video,” explains Karen.

“I wanted to broaden the idea of superhouse. That’s the nice thing about doing an exhibition – you get to expand on ideas from the book. Also, I was nervous initially about the title of the book, because it sounds grand. But what I’ve learnt about a superhouse (for me) is that isn’t about scale or luxury. It’s comfort. It’s materiality and light and the way they interact. I’m drawn to places of warmth and light. And nature. Not necessarily having to be in nature, but having a connection to it – whether a distant view, or a beautiful tree in a tiny courtyard. It’s also wonderful to have something inspiring, something that lifts your heart. That can be something inspirational about the place or the form, but also details. I think really comes down to intelligent and thoughtful design.”

Among the projects you’ll see are:

  • Skylight House by Chenchow Little, that rewrites the rules on terrace housing;
  • James Stockwell’s spacecraft-shaped Croft House in Inverloch, Victoria;
  • Olson Kundig Architects’ Slaughterhouse Beach House, on the Hawaiian island of Maui;
  • Virginia Kerridge’s Country House in NSW;
  • Astley Castle­, a ruin invigorated by British architects Witherford Watson Mann;
  • Almere House a prefab by Dutch architect Jan Benthem;
  • Solo Pezo (the cover house) in Spain by Pezo von Ellrichshausen Architects;
  • Paul Morgan’s Trunk House in Victoria; and the
  • Balmoral House in Sydney by Clinton Murray and Polly Harborson, 2015 Residential Architecture Award (AIA, NSW).


As part of the exhibition, a series of public talks with architects will also be held (from early September) at the Museum of Sydney. Check the Museum of Sydney What’s On section, our Facebook page or the Modern House Journal for dates and speaker details.

29 August – 29 November
Museum of Sydney

Modern House is a Supporting Partner of Sydney Living Museums Home & Architecture program.


Photography from top:
Almere House (Netherlands) by Benthem Crouwel Architekten (1982-1984). Photographer: Richard Powers, courtesy of Museum of Sydney.
Astley Castle (England) by Witherford Watson Mann Architects (2013). Photographer: Richard Powers, courtesy Museum of Sydney.
Croft House (Inverloch, Victoria) by James Stockwell Architect, 2013. Photographer: John Gollings, courtesy Museum of Sydney.
Croft House Interior (Inverloch, Victoria) by James Stockwell Architect, 2013. Photographer: John Gollings,courtesy Museum of Sydney.
Solo House (Cretas, Spain) by Pezo von Ellrichshausen. Photographer: Richard Powers, courtesy Museum of Sydney.