Fig­ure of speech

A gable form at Pt Wells takes three ar­chi­tects in a new di­rec­tion

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

The vil­lage of Point Wells is sur­rounded on three sides by water, across the Whangateau Har­bour from the beach-side set­tle­ment of Omaha. It’s a sleepy, es­tu­ar­ine place: one road in, one road out; big trees, a store and some lovely chunks of tidal water­front land. Twenty years ago, the own­ers of this new house, by Aaron Pater­son, Do­minic Gla­muz­ina and Steven Lloyd, re­luc­tantly sold their old house be­side the es­tu­ary and moved to Omaha – much more at­trac­tive to their teenage kids at the time. They then spent two decades work­ing out how to get back. When they fi­nally made it back across the cause­way, it was for a dif­fer­ent sort of occupation: a de­cid­edly ru­ral one. Hav­ing re­tired from full-time work in Auck­land, they wanted to build a house that was part re­treat, part per­ma­nent home – a mod­ern farm­house, com­plete with out-build­ings and lots of room for peo­ple to stay. They planned an or­chard, a cricket oval and a huge veg­etable gar­den. It had to cope with one per­son in the mid­dle of win­ter, or 20 in the height of sum­mer. And it had to house a won­der­ful collection of art and arte­facts gath­ered over a life­time, in­clud­ing what you might call a cab­i­net of cu­riosi­ties from around the world that takes in taxi­dermy, eth­nic art and fer­til­ity sym­bols, which sit lightly next to art that in­cludes sev­eral large works by Al­lan Mad­dox. “They wanted a par­tic­u­lar type of build­ing. A gable. And that wasn’t some­thing that we’d ever re­ally done be­fore,” says Pater­son. The idea was a chal­lenge for Gla­muz­ina and Pater­son, whose prac­tice was known for darkly in­tel­li­gent build­ings and who, Lloyd in­cluded, have since gone on to their own prac­tices. Through the de­sign process, the ar­chi­tects came up with all sorts of ideas on how to tweak the classic ru­ral ver­nac­u­lar: the own­ers were de­ter­mined to have that gable, and in the most low-key, pared-back way pos­si­ble. The ar­chi­tects worked within the overall scheme to in­tro­duce beau­ti­ful de­tails. If it was to be a gabled, shed-like build­ing, it would be a collection of per­fect shed-like build­ings – con­tem­po­rary in pre­ci­sion, if not ma­te­ri­als. The re­sult is de­cep­tively rus­tic: pitched-roof build­ings, clad in cedar weath­er­boards, and with tall, floor-to-ceil­ing case­ment win­dows. It’s a lovely spot. Down the drive­way, un­der huge es­tab­lished macro­carpa and be­side post-and-rail fences, past a steel shed, you pull up in front of a big pitched-roof garage, which con­tains a bunkroom above. You can see very lit­tle of the house behind, which is two long wings con­nected by a ‘board­walk’, a lay­out that cre­ates shel­tered decks and court­yards be­tween build­ings. “The sur­face area makes lots of dif­fer­ent spa­ces and walls to look at,” says Pater­son, “and ways to con­trol the wind and sun with­out over­pow­er­ing the land­scape.”

The ar­chi­tects came up with all sorts of ideas on how to tweak the classic ru­ral ver­nac­u­lar: the own­ers were de­ter­mined to have that gable.

The house is raised lightly off the pad­dock on tim­ber piles, in the way that farm build­ings are. To ac­cess the in­te­rior, you climb poured-con­crete steps, then onto oak floor­boards. “It raises them up off the grass,” says Lloyd. “It gives a light­ness – that shed connection. We had this idea that the plant­ing sits the build­ing across a green plateau.” The two struc­tures run north to south, con­nected by a ‘board­walk’ that also con­tains the front en­trance – though, as Pater­son notes, “That’s the dra­matic en­trance – but it’s al­most never used.” From the front door, you turn right to the ‘pri­vate ar­eas’ – hous­ing three bed­rooms, three bath­rooms and a study for the own­ers down the east side of the house – or left to the great room, a tall space with a high truss ceil­ing and mas­sive poured-con­crete fire­place that flows out to the west. In be­tween, there’s a deck and a court­yard, which means no mat­ter where the wind, you can al­ways find a calm spot. The de­sign is both mon­u­men­tal and in­ti­mate, in the way that traditional small New Zealand churches are: a tall, gabled space with a sky­light in the top that spills light down into the liv­ing space. This space is fur­nished with kil­ims, chunky fur­ni­ture and a very large, very soft ot­toman that holds the room.

“Ev­ery­thing had a di­rec­tion, an ori­en­ta­tion and a grade,” says Pater­son, which re­quired thought and con­tem­pla­tion.

“It’s just got this re­ally pure, beau­ti­ful vol­ume in­side,” says Pater­son. “It feels re­ally right. We spent a lot of time ag­o­nis­ing about re­ally sim­ple things that you wouldn’t ex­pect. You’re not mak­ing ma­jor de­sign changes, you’re just fo­cussing on re­ally subtle, crafted de­tail. And that was the most in­ter­est­ing thing about the process.” Instead of fas­cia board and sof­fits, the cor­ru­gated alu­minium reaches out over the edge of the roof; the weath­er­boards, mean­while, start thin and slowly, board by board, and get deeper, un­til the boards at the top of the gable are al­most twice the size. The an­gle of the roof is exactly 45 de­grees, which lends pre­cise ge­om­e­try: as you go out a me­tre, the roof goes up a me­tre, so the two build­ings are long and rea­son­ably nar­row. There are two very tall poured-con­crete chimneys – Lloyd reck­ons the one out­side re­sem­bles those rem­nant fire­places you see in the coun­try­side; the last ves­tige of a long-gone house. In­side, there’s a lot of tim­ber, with all its joins and con­nec­tions on show – what Lloyd de­scribes as “an agri­cul­tural ap­proach to de­tail­ing”. The walls are lined with rough-sawn New Zealand beech, which has a beau­ti­ful, hon­eyed tone. The trusses are tonka, a sus­tain­ably har­vested South Amer­i­can hard­wood. The kitchen, which sits in a tim­ber box at one end of the main liv­ing area, is made from garapa tim­ber. “Ev­ery­thing had a di­rec­tion, an ori­en­ta­tion and a grade,” says Pater­son, which re­quired thought and con­tem­pla­tion. The tim­ber win­dows – rose­wood mul­lions, cedar frames – run full length down the sides of the house, open­ing up to the out­side and fram­ing the views. These views are care­fully com­posed within a grid of tall, nar­row rec­tan­gles that fit within the fram­ing of the trusses. It’s at this point that you start to re­alise this is not a rus­tic shed, but a beautifully planned and de­tailed house. “The way to com­bat the height is to in­tro­duce rhythms,” says Lloyd. “And those rhythms have hier­ar­chies, so they march through the house and give it ra­tio­nale. It’s not just a traditional window stuck in a box.” The win­dows – along with full-length curtains that can en­close the en­tire space – help to man­age the rolling pad­docks out­side, adding to a sense of shadow and in­te­ri­or­ity. But it’s never fussy or pre­cious. The con­crete is poured off the form, but left to weather with its im­per­fec­tions on show, and the tim­ber is left to ab­sorb the knocks of fam­ily life. “It has piles and it has con­crete that we’re not sweat­ing over,” says Lloyd. “It’s going to do what it does – just like a shear­ing shed. It’s got to have that sen­si­bil­ity.”

Left The ar­chi­tects worked with the own­ers’ de­sire for a farm­hous­es­tyle gable, ren­der­ing the home into pre­cisely made pitched-roof, shed­like forms. The ‘Steve’ leather chairs are from Wey­landts, Mel­bourne.

Be­low ‘Six Veils with Por­trait’ by Tony Lane hangs in the board­walk. The Per­sian rug is from The Vit­rine.

Be­low The in­door fire­place is by The Fire­place.

Left Lloyd likens the out­door fire­place to re­sem­bling the las­tremain­ing ves­tige of a long-gone house in the coun­try­side. The out­door set­ting is ‘Alura’ by Royal Bota­nia from ECC. The ce­ramic pots are from Mor­ris & James.

Be­low A cor­ner of the liv­ing room by the open fire is set up as an idyl­lic read­ing spot.

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