HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - TEXT — Jeremy Hansen PHO­TOG­RA­PHY — Pa­trick Reynolds

Herbst Ar­chi­tects’ win­ning de­sign in Coro­man­del

Tucked away in a val­ley on the Coro­man­del Penin­sula, the 2016 Home of the Year by Herbst Ar­chi­tects com­bines rusty al­lu­sions to lo­cal farm build­ings with a proudly con­tem­po­rary form.

Ni­cola and Lance Herbst on the deck of the, which is clad in rusted cor­ru­gated iron sourced from a build­ing in Thames.

Left The own­ers run sheep on their Coro­man­del prop­erty. To the right is an ex­ten­sion of the shel­tered en­try and wood store area that con­tains a fire that dou­bles as a bar­be­cue. Above Steel rods criss-cross the liv­ing room win­dows to strengthen the struc­ture in high winds. The sofa in the liv­ing area is from Bob and Friends in Pon­sonby, Auck­land.

In some ways, it was an unusual brief. It asked for “hum­ble and ba­sic” home and ex­pressed a de­sire for bunker-like so­lid­ity. Its lo­ca­tion, on a small farm in a val­ley on the Coro­man­del Penin­sula, meant it re­quired a wood­shed and a place for wet rain­coats and muddy boots. The brief ex­pressed en­thu­si­asm for the in­te­ri­ors of old shear­ing sheds and ma­te­ri­als that were “cracked, rusted, scratched, bashed”. The own­ers, a cou­ple who work in the film in­dus­try and re­treat to the Coro­man­del for long pe­ri­ods be­tween projects to plant trees and veg­eta­bles and tend their an­i­mals, wanted one main bed­room and a small ad­di­tional one for guests. Their brief to ar­chi­tects Lance and Ni­cola Herbst had pho­to­graphs, in­clud­ing one of a large win­dow­less shed clad en­tirely in rusted cor­ru­gated iron, and two in­te­rior shots of a simple tim­ber bach that the Herb­sts had de­signed years ear­lier. The bach in those pho­to­graphs was lo­cated on Great Bar­rier Is­land; its earthy sim­plic­ity was one of the rea­sons the own­ers of the home on th­ese pages ap­proached the Herb­sts. But this new project wasn’t a case of the Herb­sts or­der­ing up more of the same.

The home is a big ar­chi­tec­tural ges­ture with low-im­pact mod­esty. It looks si­mul­ta­ne­ously an­cient and con­tem­po­rary. It proves how a thought­ful piece of ar­chi­tec­ture can en­hance a beau­ti­ful land­scape and the sense of con­nec­tion to it.

The hus­band-and-wife team have be­come well­known for their mastery of light­weight tim­ber baches, as­sem­blages of feath­ery, dif­fuse, in­tri­cate struc­tures in­tent on dis­solv­ing the bound­aries be­tween in­side and out. This home is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion: a solid, res­o­lute, blunt-edged form that could be de­scribed as agrar­ian bru­tal­ism. The stark con­trast to the Herb­sts’ pre­vi­ous work is en­tirely de­lib­er­ate and marks the be­gin­ning of a pe­riod of “ac­tive dis­rup­tion” of their cus­tom­ary ap­proach to de­sign­ing homes. “We just felt the need to come at things from a slightly dif­fer­ent an­gle,” Lance says. They’ve made a great start. The Home of the Year 2016 is one of those rare build­ings that make you catch your breath when you see it, ei­ther in pho­to­graphs or in the dis­tance as you round a cor­ner on the wind­ing val­ley road that of­fers a first glimpse. It com­bines graphic im­pact with down-to-earth prac­ti­cal­ity, a big ar­chi­tec­tural ges­ture with low-im­pact mod­esty. It looks si­mul­ta­ne­ously an­cient and con­tem­po­rary. It proves how thought­ful ar­chi­tec­ture can en­hance a beau­ti­ful land­scape and the sense of con­nec­tion to it. The own­ers men­tion a re­cent evening when they hun­kered down in the liv­ing room and watched a light­ning storm rage up the val­ley around them. “It’s a vis­ceral house,” one of its own­ers says. “You can experience na­ture on a re­ally vis­ceral level. We love be­ing on the land, and the house doesn’t shut us away from it.” The dra­matic ges­ture of that up­per-level skin of re­cy­cled rusty cor­ru­gated iron was in­spired partly by the own­ers’ brief, and also by a clutch of an­cient farm sheds a lit­tle fur­ther down the val­ley. Of course, many New Zealand build­ings have em­u­lated th­ese ver­nac­u­lar forms, but the Herb­sts es­chewed the con­ven­tional gabled-roof trib­ute and took a more oblique ap­proach. They no­ticed how the ab­sence of win­dows in the old sheds helped them ac­quire an ab­stract sculp­tural power and ap­plied this ap­proach to the home, lev­i­tat­ing the rusty skin above the main liv­ing floor and re­fus­ing to punc­ture it with win­dows. To do so would have re­duced this mys­te­ri­ous skin to do­mes­tic scale, adding an el­e­ment of ba­nal­ity to some­thing beau­ti­ful. In­stead, thin slits in the iron al­low nar­row lin­ear views down the val­ley from the top floor, while the main bed­room and bath­room up­stairs open to the rear of the prop­erty through full-length slid­ing doors. It may seem per­verse to block val­ley views from the top floor, but the home’s in­te­rior doesn’t feel as if it lacks them. At the top of the long drive­way, the 115-square-me­tre home starts out an­chored to the earth: the ridge­line was cut and re­placed by a re­tain­ing wall that backs the lower level. The de­lib­er­ately ca­sual ground-floor en­try is a cov­ered, open-air space with a beau­ti­ful floor of sawn pine logs and serves as a wood store, a place to hang coats and boots, and some­where for the dogs to shel­ter. At one end of it, an out­door fire dou­bles as a bar­be­cue and of­fers a place to sit and ad­mire the view. In­side, a ser­vice pod holds a lit­tle bath­room and the stair­well on one side and a pantry and laun­dry on the other. The kitchen and din­ing space are a simple lin­ear ar­range­ment of bench, is­land and ta­ble, with cab­i­netry made from in­dus­trial ma­te­ri­als by Kirsty Winter. Doors on both sides of the kitchen and din­ing area open to small decks. The sit­ting room is two steps lower, where the view is cropped into a hor­i­zon­tal 270-de­gree panorama up and down the val­ley. “It be­came very ap­par­ent early on to crop the fore­ground and sky so you get that in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of the panorama,” Lance says. Loom­ing high above is the hol­lowed-out in­te­rior of that rusty iron skin, criss-crossed by Ore­gon beams and lined in re­cy­cled rimu. The Herb­sts have long talked about the need for ev­ery home to have a se­cure space with a solid wall to shield your back while you en­joy the pri­mal plea­sures of a blaz­ing fire. Here, though, their aim was to cre­ate that feel­ing not with a solid wall – the sit­ting room is sur­rounded by win­dows – but by util­is­ing the mass of the ceil­ing volume hov­er­ing above. “Be­cause of the weight of the box, which lev­i­tates above the glass pav­il­ion be­low, you’ve got an in­ti­mate and en­closed sense of com­fort,” Ni­cola says.

The home is full of rus­tic, mus­cu­lar de­tails. A large con­crete fire­place an­chors the sit­ting space and rises to form a back­rest for the bench be­side the din­ing ta­ble. Doorhan­dles, taps, coat hooks, bath­room basins and many other el­e­ments were sourced sec­ond­hand. The kitchen splash­back and the shower are lined with cop­per pan­els that were de­lib­er­ately aged by artist Louise Purvis. The val­ley is some­times blasted by strong winds, so rusted, criss-crossed steel brac­ing re­in­forces the liv­ing room win­dows. The cor­ru­gated iron on the ex­te­rior was sourced from a build­ing in Thames and care­fully re­moved by a con­trac­tor, then aged by builders Doug Flem­ing and Paul Ox­ford for use on the new home. About 60 per­cent of the home’s ma­te­ri­als are re­cy­cled, and new ones were treated so they ac­quired a patina of age. The over­all ef­fect is suit­ably bu­colic, with an au­then­tic­ity that means it never feels like it’s striv­ing for a par­tic­u­lar style.

Much of the Herb­sts’ ear­lier work is no­table for its at­ten­tion to the small­est de­tails. The home they de­signed at Piha that won this mag­a­zine’s Home of the Year award in 2012, for ex­am­ple, is highly crafted, with pat­terned tim­ber screens and in­tri­cately de­tailed cedar. The home on th­ese pages, while beau­ti­fully built, doesn’t have the same as­pi­ra­tions. Lance re­counts a con­ver­sa­tion with the In­dian ar­chi­tect Bi­joy Jain of Stu­dio Mum­bai about “the tyranny of craft”, and how an ob­ses­sive fo­cus on re­fined de­tails can ob­scure the search for what Lance calls “the po­etry of build­ings, and their pres­ence in the land­scape in a pos­i­tive way”. This home rep­re­sents an ex­cit­ing sort of lib­er­a­tion for the Herb­sts. “The more we’re asked to do dif­fer­ent build­ing ty­polo­gies, the more we feel free to use dif­fer­ent modes of ex­pres­sion,” Lance says. If strong, po­etic build­ings like this are the re­sult, then we can’t wait to see more of them.

The large con­crete fire­place sur­round serves to an­chor the sit­ting area, while also serv­ing as a back­rest for the bench seat at the din­ing ta­ble. Rus­tic ma­te­ri­als and de­tails used through­out the home are of­ten vin­tage or de­lib­er­ately aged. The leather fold­ing chair in the fore­ground is from De­sign Den­mark. The kitchen cab­i­netry was de­signed and made by Kirsty Winter.

“Be­cause of the weight of the box, which lev­i­tates above the glass pav­il­ion be­low, you’ve got an in­ti­mate and en­closed sense of com­fort.”

Above In a rich gallery of wood, Ore­gon beams and re­cy­cled rimu fea­ture in­side the hol­lowed-out in­te­rior of the rusty iron skin. Left Large slid­ing doors on ei­ther side of the kitchen and din­ing area open up to small decks. Glen Loane made the wooden join­ery for the slid­ing win­dows and shut­ters.

Left and above Dig­ger the dog sits at the ground-floor en­try, which is paved with sawn pine logs. The space in­cludes stor­age for fire­wood, as well as a place to hang coats and boots. Right In the main bed­room, slim cuts in the ex­te­rior iron skin al­low nar­row views down the val­ley.

Above The sit­ting room of­fers a care­fully cropped 270-de­gree panorama of the val­ley. The cof­fee ta­ble in the liv­ing room is from Auck­land’s The Vit­rine, while much of the rest of the home is fur­nished with sec­ond-hand finds from Trade Me. Wooden nail boxes are used as side ta­bles. Right While the house was in part in­spired by a clutch of old farm build­ings in the val­ley, the Herb­sts es­chewed the con­ven­tional ref­er­ence of a shed-like gable roof.


The res­o­lute, blunt-edged form is a de­lib­er­ate de­par­ture from Herbst Ar­chi­tects’ pre­vi­ous work and an “ac­tive dis­rup­tion” of their cus­tom­ary ap­proach to de­sign­ing homes – it could be de­scribed as agrar­ian bru­tal­ism. “We just felt the need to come at things from a slightly dif­fer­ent an­gle,” says Lance Herbst.

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