White out

A house by Pat­ter­sons traces the mem­ory of the one that went be­fore.

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - Text Anna Frances Pear­son

A gallery-like home in Christchurch by Pat­ter­sons

A few weeks ago Liz walked into her shad­owy bed­room at dusk and, out of habit, reached for a pull-chord light that wasn’t there. The lead­light win­dows were gone, too, as was the gabled roof, the hand­made kauri stair­case and rimu floors. Liz and Ian bought their two-storey home in Fen­dal­ton, Christchurch, in 1978. They moved across town from one leafy sub­urb to an­other, to a house de­signed by Arm­son, Collins and Har­man ar­chi­tects. The cou­ple needed more room for their three young chil­dren and “we had a list of 13 things and I think it had 12 of them”, says Liz. De­spite it be­ing on a busy road and need­ing some work, the former board­ing house was com­fort­able and invit­ing. The quakes that hit Can­ter­bury twisted two in­ter­nal chim­ney stacks, which warped the 100-year-old art­sand-crafts-style homestead and ripped peb­bledash cladding from hor­i­zon­tal wooden lathes. Bricks blew out into the rooms and shin­gle from be­neath burst through pipes and filled a dunny at the end of the hall­way. For a short time af­ter­wards, Liz and Ian, now in their 70s, lived in a tent at their daugh­ter’s house, then rented when they re­alised that the in­sur­ance and build­ing process would take a while to sort out. Five years and 42 days to be ex­act. When ar­chi­tects An­drew Pat­ter­son and An­drew Mitchell of Pat­ter­sons took on Liz and Ian’s re­build, they knew the cou­ple’s strong con­nec­tion to the orig­i­nal home would be an im­por­tant fac­tor in de­sign. It was a home in which the fam­ily had cre­ated more than three decades of mem­o­ries – wed­dings, 21sts, Christ­mas func­tions, lunches for their sons’ Christchurch Boys’ High School mates (which al­ways felt like half the school), Ian’s 15 years in lo­cal-body pol­i­tics, Liz’s nurs­ing ca­reer, then Fine Arts de­gree. “It’s unique that there was a house that we could see and walk through,” says Mitchell. “It’s our new in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the mem­ory of the house.” Liz and Ian’s in­sur­ance pol­icy was for a ‘like-for-like’ re­place­ment, but they needed ev­i­dence to prove that the orig­i­nal house was ar­chi­tec­turally de­signed. By chance, a friend of Liz’s met some­one who was do­ing a the­sis on Arm­son, Collins and Har­man, who told them the ar­chi­tects had do­nated hand-drawn plans to a li­brary at the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury. The new home was de­signed within the foot­print of the orig­i­nal and its lov­ingly tended ma­ture gar­dens. Cy­presses line the drive­way be­hind an orig­i­nal red brick fence and buxus hedg­ing fringes the front of the house, giv­ing the im­pres­sion that the build­ing has been there longer than it has. Liz says they had a few re­quests, such as a sep­a­rate din­ing area, high ceil­ings like their old house and a stain­less-steel bench­top in the kitchen. “But we didn’t care what the house looked like as long as they [the ar­chi­tects] were happy with it,” she says. “We just trusted them.”

With­out a strong brief from the own­ers on how the house should look, Pat­ter­sons drew on the con­cept of ‘gar­den ar­chi­tec­ture’, as a nod to a civic project they were work­ing on at the same time – the new Christchurch Botanic Gar­dens Vis­i­tor Cen­tre, which were in­flu­enced by the glass and white steel struc­tures within Kew Gar­dens in Lon­don. Liz and Ian’s house em­ploys the same en­dur­ing, white scheme. The but­tery white in­ter­nal walls also form a back­drop to their art col­lec­tion, which in­cludes pieces by Ralph Hotere, Philippa Blair and Colin McCa­hon, as well as Liz’s own paint­ings. From the out­side, the build­ing re­peats its an­gu­lar peaks – a con­tem­po­rary take on a gabled roof. Stand­ing seam cladding gives way to ver­ti­cal tim­ber cladding in places where peo­ple in­ter­act with the build­ing. Lou­vres in front of the full-height win­dows up­stairs form a veil to the road. The lou­vre blades also act as an ex­ten­sion to the roof and cladding seams: “This in­te­grates the blade for­mally; we wanted the roof form and cladding to be uni­fied,” says Mitchell. Inside, key ground-floor spa­ces, such as the en­trance, kitchen, liv­ing, sit­ting and din­ing rooms, are placed in their orig­i­nal lo­ca­tions – “We knew how the sun worked,” says Liz – but Mitchell says the new de­sign pro­vides a stronger con­nec­tion to the ex­ist­ing gar­dens with sight lines through the house. To ex­pe­ri­ence the house is to en­ter a grand hall­way where the ceil­ing rises up more than eight me­tres. With the ad­di­tion of some tres­tle ta­bles, the space dou­bles as a central en­ter­tain­ment area for fam­ily gath­er­ings and din­ner par­ties of up to 16 guests.

Liz says the nave-like en­trance can go from be­ing the qui­etest, most med­i­ta­tive space in the house, to the busiest dur­ing a cock­tail party or with grand­kids lay­ing out their trains on the floor. “It feels right no mat­ter what,” she says. The space holds a hang­ing geo­met­ric light by de­signer Arik Levy and a white steel spi­ral stair­case takes cen­tre stage where the kauri one once stood, while an opaque, ridged sky­light washes dif­fused, am­bi­ent light into the space. The dou­ble-height ceil­ing fol­lows the gabled roof line, which makes the an­gu­lar form read­able from the in­te­rior. The kitchen and liv­ing are to the left, with the sit­ting room and din­ing room to the right: it’s an airy, gallery-like space, though large slid­ing doors dis­ap­pear into wall cav­i­ties to cre­ate more in­ti­mate spa­ces. In the din­ing area, full-length cur­tains can be pulled closed to cre­ate a warm, cosy vibe – a modern twist on their old din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. “It’s like be­ing in a very nice tent,” she says. The laun­dry, a pas­sen­ger lift to fu­ture-proof the house and a wine cel­lar are clev­erly hid­den within the rear of the build­ing. “It’s quite a re­solved, ma­ture house,” says Liz. “It’s sim­ple but to make it that sim­ple you have to be clever.” Where the view out­side was pre­vi­ously lim­ited by tra­di­tional lead­light win­dows, three-me­tre-high glass doors now cre­ate a con­stant con­nec­tion to both front and back gar­dens. The doors dis­ap­pear en­tirely into wall cav­i­ties, cre­at­ing a dra­matic, ex­posed – and very airy – ef­fect. “It was funny be­cause I said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to have a ve­ran­dah,’ and [An­drew] said, ‘You’ll just open the doors’,” Liz says. “Isn’t it amaz­ing?” says Ian. “You feel that you’re in the gar­den.” Up­stairs is un­com­pli­cated, with a spare bed­room, a west-fac­ing sit­ting room that catches the evening sun and a chil­dren’s room for the cou­ple’s six grand­chil­dren. Two bath­rooms (the in­sur­ance com­pany agreed to re­place an up­stairs kitchen with an­other bath­room), Ian’s mez­za­nine of­fice and the main bed­room com­plete the lay­out. “Each room has its own in­tegrity and sense of space,” says Liz. Mitchell says Liz and Ian took a leap of faith in go­ing for a new, con­tem­po­rary way of liv­ing, rather

than sim­ply repli­cat­ing what they had lost. The re­sult ap­peals across the gen­er­a­tions. The ar­chi­tects took care to in­cor­po­rate the mem­ory of the old house on both a mi­cro and macro scale – from small de­tail­ing such as ver­ti­cal tim­ber cladding in some places to the sit­ing of the home and ar­range­ment of spa­ces. Liz was most pleased to get ap­proval from a cousin in her mid-90s. The orig­i­nal house was “con­tem­po­rary of its time and very pared back”, she says, but there was no way they would have gone for a replica. “It be­comes im­i­ta­tive rather than gen­uine.” Ian says the new home “ab­so­lutely” makes up for them be­ing away from the prop­erty for so many years. When he and Liz re­turn home, they tread the same path as al­ways: the first night in the new house was like déjà vu. “I looked out the win­dow and the five years just dis­ap­peared.”

Left The loo has a view through the bath­room’s full-height win­dow. A ‘Lulu’ towel from Tes­suti hangs over the bath.

Be­low Spa­ces can be sec­tioned off to cre­ate a sense of in­ti­macy in the gallery-like home. The chairs at the din­ing ta­ble and ‘Rondo’ tray are from Citta. The ‘Em77 Re­verse’ jug by Erik Mag­nussen for Stel­ton is from Si­mon James De­sign. The light above...

Right The lou­vres out­side the be­d­rooms form a veil to the road, as well as in­te­grate the roof and cladding. The home was built by lo­cal builder Sam Man­son of SMBC. Be­low Pat­ter­sons’ work on Christchurch’s Botanic Gar­dens Vis­i­tor Cen­tre proved...

Left Tim­ber treads line the white steel spi­ral stair­case that con­nects the home’s two lev­els.

Be­low The new home sits within the foot­print of the de­mol­ished one, the orig­i­nal gar­dens in­tact. Pieces by Ralph Hotere and Kate Rivers hang be­hind the sofa. The ‘Hamp­ton’ sofa is from BoCon­cept, with an ‘Ay­mara’ wo­ven cush­ion and ‘Re­flect’ em­broi­dered...

Right Seen through the tree tops, the build­ing’s pur­pose is open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

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