Water fea­tures

A well-honed sense of place and pur­pose en­sures this Wai­heke Is­land home treads lightly on the land.

Element - - Architects - By John Walsh

Dave Strachan was an ex­po­nent of ‘sus­tain­able de­sign’ be­fore the phrase was coined. Not that he would de­scribe him­self as such. When de­sign­ing his lat­est award-win­ning house, at Wai­heke’s Owhanake Bay, Strachan says he did what he al­ways does, that is “re­spond to the site, the cli­mate, the lo­cal environment, and of course, the needs of the clients”. Noth­ing spe­cial, in other words, although the Auck­land Ar­chi­tec­ture Awards judges dis­agreed, giv­ing the house awards in both the res­i­den­tial and sus­tain­able ar­chi­tec­ture cat­e­gories. “Sus­tain­able prin­ci­ples shouldn’t be add-on el­e­ments,” Strachan says, “they should be em­bed­ded in an ar­chi­tec­tural project.”

The Owhanake Bay House, de­signed for a semi-re­tired cou­ple who had a slop­ing site but wanted an eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble sin­gle storey house, hun­kers down be­low a ridge line at the head of a gully. Strachan de­signed the house as three nar­row pavil­ions so that the plan could bend to fol­low the con­tours of the site. The ar­chi­tect likens the two in­ter­sec­tions be­tween the pavil­ions as “folds in the land­form”. Just as these de­pres­sions of­ten con­tain water cour­ses so do the “wedges of space” be­tween the pavil­ions – one ac­com­mo­dates the main bath­room and the other a plunge pool and spa. A translu­cent poly­car­bon­ate roof al­lows fil­tered nat­u­ral light into these aquatic spa­ces.

Strachan also looked for in­spi­ra­tion to the tra­di­tional New Zealand villa ve­ran­dah, but mag­ni­fied this el­e­ment to take ad­van­tage of Wai­heke’s be­nign cli­mate. In this house the ve­ran­dah is pro­moted from nar­row shel­ter to full-blown liv­ing space. On the east­ern side, banks of flap win­dows on gas-pow­ered struts open, leav­ing the ve­ran­dah ‘posts’ as the only fixed struc­tural el­e­ment. “On this site and in this

cli­mate, there was ev­ery in­cen­tive to de­sign a house which al­lowed the oc­cu­pants to re­ally en­gage with the land­scape,” Strachan says.

Durable nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als have been spec­i­fied, both to suit the site con­text and for longevity of life in a sea­side environment. The stained cedar weath­er­boards ap­prox­i­mate to the colour of the branches of the manuka which is re­gen­er­at­ing un­der the care of Strachan’s clients, who have turned a pad­dock into a gar­den planted with na­tive species with an area set aside for a kitchen gar­den. In the in­te­rior of the house, tim­ber fin­ishes add warmth and char­ac­ter, and cop­per-clad fins frame clear-glazed aper­tures to pro­vide strong vis­ual con­nec­tions to the sur­round­ing land­scape. On the north and south sides, dou­ble-glazed, cop­per-clad win­dow boxes frame “paint­ings” of the land­scape. The house is warmed by five so­lar heaters, and ef­flu­ent is gath­ered and then dis­trib­uted onto the site.

“This build­ing gives the im­pres­sion that it ac­tu­ally breathes,” said the Auck­land Ar­chi­tec­ture Awards jury. “One gets the sense that it fits its own­ers like a glove.”

This sin­gle-storey Owhanake Bay home on Wai­heke Is­land bends to fit the land­scape on which it sits. Pho­tos: Pa­trick Reynolds

Dave Strachan.


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