Com­pound equa­tion

Ar­chi­tect Marc Lith­gow adds to one of his most cel­e­brated projects.

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - Text Si­mon Far­rell-Green Pho­tog­ra­phy David Straight

Marc Lith­gow re­vis­its one of his most cel­e­brated de­signs

More than a decade ago, ar­chi­tect Marc Lith­gow of Space Di­vi­sion de­signed a com­pact, clever lit­tle house for a young fam­ily in Mount Al­bert, Auck­land. The site had been sub­di­vided off the prop­erty next door and – due to huge listed trees – the eas­i­est thing to do was build on the foot­print of the 80-square-me­tre garage. Lith­gow ren­dered its brick base, added a light­weight cedar and black-steel sec­ond level and tucked be­d­rooms, bath­rooms and a study into the place in a Ru­bik’s cube of ge­om­e­try. From within, high-level win­dows draw your eye up into the trees. The 125-square-me­tre house – which was first cov­ered in HOME June/July 2012 – went on to win global ac­claim. A few years later, with their chil­dren now teenagers, the clients ap­proached Lith­gow to add more room. “There was al­ways talk of a sec­ond stage,” says Lith­gow. “It just took a while to work out what shape or form that might be. They al­ways knew there would come a time when it wouldn’t suit them any­more.” One thing was off the ta­ble from the start: mak­ing one big house. Both ar­chi­tect and client were con­scious that do­ing so would de­stroy the pu­rity of the orig­i­nal struc­ture, and would cre­ate an awk­ward re­la­tion­ship be­tween new and old. In­stead, Lith­gow pro­posed a com­pound-like ap­proach, with a self-con­tained one-bed­room pav­il­ion lo­cated close to the orig­i­nal. Pre­vi­ously, the drive­way stopped just in front of the house: now, it ends at the bot­tom of the slope next to a dou­ble garage topped with a lawn and court­yard gar­den. Be­side that, a con­crete path leads up be­side the wall of the garage, which will even­tu­ally be cov­ered with creeper, to a land­ing be­tween the two glass-front doors. The new house mim­ics the old with its use of ren­dered walls, cedar and black steel, but it’s a dif­fer­ent shape – a rec­tan­gle be­side a tri­an­gle. “The scale of it is the same,” says Lith­gow, “but moved through 90 de­grees.” Whereas the old spa­ces are tightly de­fined and care­fully pro­grammed – Lith­gow spent months work­ing out how to get ser­vices into the small­est of spa­ces, and de­tailed en­tire walls of cab­i­netry – the new place is much more ex­pan­sive and a lit­tle more bul­let-proof. Con­crete floors, birch ply stairs and ex­posed con­crete beams inset with tim­ber have re­placed the crisp white an­gles of the orig­i­nal. Down­stairs is one large, open room with a big kitchen and slid­ing doors that stack back, open­ing up to a big court­yard built on top of the garage – it feels as if it’s sit­ting in the trees. Up­stairs, there’s a gen­er­ous bed­room and bath­room, with big slid­ing win­dows and a view over the rooftops and out to the Waitakere Ranges in the dis­tance. Al­most im­me­di­ately, the fam­ily started us­ing this room as their main liv­ing space, and it’s here where they come to eat din­ner as a fam­ily around the eight­seater din­ing ta­ble. Break­fast, mean­while, hap­pens next door. The adults grav­i­tate to the new space early on Saturday morn­ings; teenagers dis­ap­pear into the orig­i­nal house in the af­ter­noon, while adults have a glass of wine on the ter­race. Big win­dows and doors, mean­while, dis­solve the corners be­tween the two. The ad­di­tion is re­spect­ful, of course, but it also gives its own­ers op­tions. There are two liv­ing ar­eas – three if you count the big bed­room up­stairs cur­rently used as a mu­sic room, and two kitchens, as well as two big out­door ar­eas. Even­tu­ally, the clients plan to leave the old place to the kids al­to­gether, cre­at­ing a com­pound that will grow and change with the fam­ily in the way that one big house never could. “I was al­ways think­ing about mul­ti­ple spa­ces and flu­id­ity of space,” says Lith­gow. “It’s a se­ries of vol­umes climb­ing up the hill, with these dif­fer­ent spa­ces in them – this is be­cause the own­ers al­lowed us to pull apart what would oth­er­wise have been one build­ing.”

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