Rebuilding the bushfire house.
Chris Clarke rebuilt Callignee II after losing his home in the Black Saturday fires. Hear his story.
Picture this. You’ve spent 10 years planning your dream home on a site in the Gippsland region of Victoria. It took 2 years of that time to build it. You call it Callignee, and it’s stunning.
Two weeks after you’re finished, it’s burned to the ground in the Black Saturday fires in 2009.
This was the experience of Chris Clarke. Chris rebuilt on the same site … a home he called Callignee II. And it was featured in the first episode of the first season of Grand Designs Australia.
This is part 1 of my interview with Chris Clarke. His story is a fantastic inspiration and guide for those rebuilding, and also anyone embarking on their building or renovation journey.
Chris Clarke is a builder, Director of SWALE Modular, and he studied for his Bachelor of Applied Science – Construction Management at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Chris is a hands-on practical person, starting as a qualified carpenter who designs, develops and builds out of the conventional system to a structure that works for the client.
It was through his interest and studies that Chris became involved in sustainable healthy green construction and living.
For the next decade Chris managed commercial and residential highrise buildings for some of Melbourne’s biggest development companies.
On Saturday 5th February 2009, since named ‘Black Saturday’ … fire cruelly destroys much of Victoria’s landscape. In the fire’s path was Chris Clarke’s amazing property ‘Callignee’.
Chris had just spent two years (plus all the planning prior to this) building his minimalist timber and steel dream home at Callignee in Gippsland when, less than a week after completion, it was devastatingly razed and all that remained was a concrete slab and a burnt out shell.
Despite such a huge loss, Chris bravely decided to rebuild at Callignee. The new home focussed on reuse, recycling, and fire resilience. It also had a smaller footprint, and was tailored to Chris’ lifestyle, and personal health and well-being needs. And, as beautifully stated in the episode of Grand Designs Australia that featured it, Chris said “I built the first house for statement – I’m building this house for me”.
Callignee II, as it came to be known, was the deserved recipient of multiple industry awards, including Building Design of the year for 2011. It’s a testament to resilience and Chris’ inspirational attitude, as well as his skills and abilities.
Since Callignee, Chris has become passionate about modular housing as a sustainable and affordable way to create homes – especially in rural locations and those challenged by constraints such as bushfire ratings, and he founded SWALE in 2001. We’re going to hear more about SWALE in part 2 of my interview.
But first, let’s meet Chris, and hear more about his journey of building Callignee II.
LISTEN TO THE EPISODE NOW
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS PODCAST:
Watch Grand Designs | Season 1, Episode 1