The wide-open frontage of this Matakana bach is de­signed to bring in the end­less views of the Pa­cific Ocean, but there are still some ar­eas in which to hole up.

Element - - Architecture - By John Walsh

For much of last cen­tury and for a good part of the one be­fore that, the small set­tle­ment of Matakana, 65 kilo­me­tres north of Auck­land, en­joyed a bu­colic ex­is­tence de­void of no­to­ri­ety. Things changed in the early 1990s when prop­erty de­vel­oper Richard Didsbury bought some land in the mid­dle of the town­ship and, work­ing with ar­chi­tect Noel Lane, hatched his scheme for Matakana Vil­lage, a bi­joux des­ti­na­tion for the Range Rover set. As af­flu­ence has spread, so has ar­chi­tec­ture. The Matakana hin­ter­land is fer­tile ter­ri­tory for Auck­land’s ar­chi­tects, and the dis­trict is pro­duc­ing a rich crop of a mod­ern va­ri­ety grafted on to that tra­di­tional build­ing stock, the hum­ble New Zealand bach. A house de­signed by Peter Eis­ing and Lucy Gauntlett of Pa­cific En­vi­ron­ments on a penin­sula near Matakana ex­presses both the lat­ter-day con­di­tion of the dis­trict and the con­tem­po­rary state of beach ar­chi­tec­ture. The house sits on a site for­merly oc­cu­pied by an old cot­tage; that build­ing, it­self trans­planted from an­other lo­ca­tion, has been moved to an ad­ja­cent sec­tion. The new house is sited to take ad­van­tage of a 270-de­gree panorama of the Hau­raki Gulf. It’s a view house, but the ar­chi­tects were con­scious that the prospect is not the only point of the place. Eis­ing de­scribes the house as a “fam­ily re­treat”, and in line with this char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion the build­ing is com­posed of two in­ter­sect­ing forms: a pav­il­ion for liv­ing that faces the sea, and an­other for sleep­ing that points in­land. Mostly perch, the house also serves as nest. The foot­print of the open-plan liv­ing pav­il­ion is greatly ex­tended by a ter­race shel­tered by a dra­matic hor­i­zon­tal roof form sup­ported at its front edge by a pair steel col­umns the ar­chi­tects call the “chop­sticks”. These slen­der steel legs are rather rem­i­nis­cent of the red ‘pukeko’ col­umns that el­e­gantly sup­port the bridge over the North­ern Gate­way sec­tion of State High­way 1, north of Orewa. Per­haps we’re see­ing the emer­gence of a re­gional de­sign trope to ri­val Can­ter­bury’s ‘prickle’ roofs and the tur­ret ar­chi­tec­ture of 1970s Welling­ton?

The sparse­ness and sim­plic­ity of the plan ex­press the ar­chi­tects’ early con­cept of the house as a ‘camp­site’. Things moved on from that de­sign ap­proach – with its con­crete floor and steel roof the house is a long way re­moved from an ephemeral set­tle­ment – but much of the spa­tial ca­su­al­ness survives, and it suits the coastal lo­cale and be­nign cli­mate. It ob­vi­ously suits the clients, too: what was go­ing to be their week­end re­treat has be­come their pri­mary res­i­dence.

Top: red ‘chop­stick’ sup­ports re­sem­ble the ‘pukeko legs’ – the name given to the col­umns sup­port­ing the bridge over the new

North­ern Gate­way sec­tion of State High­way 1.

Above: the con­crete floors of this Matakana home act as a ‘heat sink’ ab­sorb­ing the sun’s heat dur­ing the day and slowly

re­leas­ing it at night to warm the place.

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