Room with a view

South Africans think­ing they can show us a thing or two about bach liv­ing? What gives?

Element - - Architects - By John Walsh

Lance and Nicky Herbst are South African-trained ar­chi­tects who moved to New Zealand about 15 years ago. Ever since then, they’ve been teach­ing their pro­fes­sional peers new things about a build­ing type lo­cal ar­chi­tects thought they knew by heart: the Kiwi bach. The Herb­sts come from a ma­sonry build­ing tra­di­tion. Tim­ber con­struc­tion was rather new to them, but they have taken to wood work with the zeal of con­verts.

On Great Bar­rier Is­land the Herb­sts have de­signed a se­ries of award-win­ning baches that cap­ture the essence of tra­di­tional New Zealand beach build­ings, even if, in their plan­ning and care­ful assem­bly, the struc­tures are greatly evolved ver­sions of the old, ad-hoc bach. In their beach houses on Great Bar­rier, the Herb­sts have put their ef­forts into ar­chi­tec­ture, not amenity. They can be for­mi­da­bly purist in their ap­proach to the New Zealand beach ex­pe­ri­ence – their de­signs en­cour­age their clients to en­counter the el­e­ments – but this is be­cause they are def­i­nite about the pur­pose of a hol­i­day dwelling in a re­mote lo­ca­tion. At the beach you get away from it all; you don’t take it all with you.

The small struc­ture called the Wet­land Folly is a cov­ered shel­ter serv­ing a bach on Great Bar­rier Is­land. In a way it’s a bach for a bach – a re­duced ver­sion of an al­ready re­duc­tive type. The Wet­land Folly is a whim­si­cal and even lighter-weight ver­sion of the el­e­gant beach build­ings the Herb­sts have been de­sign­ing on Great Bar­rier for more than a decade. An ex­pres­sion of de­light, a folly is also a cre­ation of whimsy. The type does not fol­low the rules. This par­tic­u­lar folly is know­ingly per­verse; it’s a beach build­ing – the term is used loosely – that looks away from the shore, fo­cus­ing in­stead on the tree-ob­scured prospect of a wet­land.

The folly, which was con­ceived of as a view­ing plat­form sim­i­lar to a bird-watch­ing hide, touches its 15 square me­tre site so lightly as to leave scarcely any foot­print. A sim­ple, fully ex­posed tim­ber frame pro­vides the struc­tural skele­ton. A layer of rough manuka sticks line the in­te­rior, which houses the long bench used for sum­mer meals. A cook­ing area, with an open fire and a gas bar­beque, is sited at the rear of the folly. The Auck­land Ar­chi­tec­ture Awards jury gave the Wet­land Folly an award in the small projects cat­e­gory, de­scrib­ing it as “a de­light­ful and di­rect build­ing that is a joy­ous cel­e­bra­tion of the hol­i­day re­treat at­mos­phere.”

Lance and Nicky Herbst en­cour­age their clients to en­counter the land­scape through their de­signs. Folly Pho­tos: Jackie Meir­ing

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