Some­times ran­dom­ness can be way more in­ter­est­ing

A chal­leng­ing house above Ma­ti­a­tia has soft­ened into the Wai­heke Is­land land­scape, with­out los­ing its edge.

HOME Magazine NZ - - Sometimes Randomness Can Be Way More Interesting - Text Henry Oliver Pho­tog­ra­phy Pa­trick Reynolds

Ten years ago, when this Wai­heke house de­signed by Do­minic Gla­muz­ina was com­pleted, a lo­cal man run­ning for lo­cal coun­cil called it a “crime against hu­man­ity” on his cam­paign flyer. Wai­heke res­i­dents can be crit­i­cal of any new ar­chi­tec­ture on the is­land, be­tray­ing a ten­sion between social pro­gres­sivism and lo­cal con­ser­vatism. But few new build­ings draw as much at­ten­tion as those that sit on the hills over Ma­ti­a­tia, the bay where vis­i­tors get their first wel­com­ing glimpse of the is­land and where lo­cals come and go, some daily, on their way to and from the main­land. On the ferry over to visit the house, I ask Gla­muz­ina whether he was aware of the public na­ture of the houses view­able from the ferry and if he an­tic­i­pated the crit­i­cism. “You have no way of not be­ing aware,” he says. “I was com­ing here at least once a week while it was be­ing built and it was pretty in­tense. But I got used to that aware­ness of do­ing some­thing public. The fact that peo­ple love or hate it is great. I would sit at the back of the boat and oc­ca­sion­ally talk to peo­ple about it, but I was never wor­ried about whether they hated it.” The house sits high on the crest of a large ru­ral site, fac­ing east to­wards Coro­man­del, north to­wards Ran­gi­toto Is­land, and slightly west to down­town Auck­land. Ar­riv­ing by ferry, it’s seen to your right as you ap­proach the ter­mi­nal. From a dis­tance it looks like a fa­mil­iar mod­ernist stack of boxes – glass on the bot­tom, some un­de­fin­able metal on top. Now that the house has set­tled into the land­scape, it’s hard to imag­ine it rais­ing any­one’s blood pres­sure. But, 10 years ago, the cop­per-cladding was bright and glis­ten­ing and some res­i­dents saw it as os­ten­ta­tious.

“It was about find­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties not to give them the com­plete­ness of the view but dif­fer­ent prox­im­i­ties of views.”

The owner, who grew up on a farm that once oc­cu­pied the bay now pop­u­lated with cars, build­ings, boats and buses, says there were ru­mours they had paid off the coun­cil to get per­mis­sion to build high on the ridge. All of which seems ridicu­lous since a decade has pati­naed the cop­per to a deep, red­dish brown, and shrubs and trees have grown to par­tially ob­scure the house. With a brief cen­tred around what should be seen (the wharf and boats be­low, with Auck­land and Coro­man­del in the dis­tance) and what shouldn’t (the park­ing lot be­low and neigh­bours to the east), Gla­muz­ina made two de­ci­sions that dic­tated what the house would be­come. Rather than plac­ing the house on the hill, they would cut into and shape the land around the house; and in­stead of shap­ing the house around a tight geo­graphic for­mula, they would shift and bend it to ar­tic­u­late dif­fer­ent views at dif­fer­ent dis­tances, of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent light and lev­els of ex­po­sure. By cut­ting into the hill, the house both sinks into the land and sits atop it, with its ground level pro­vid­ing a light-filled, glass-lined liv­ing space that hov­ers above the bay, as well as heavy con­crete rooms that are dug into the hill like a bunker at each wing. “The base el­e­ment is about gen­er­at­ing a new con­di­tion on the land­scape, so we cut a mas­sive chunk out of the site up the back, low­er­ing it down and then build­ing it back up,” says Gla­muz­ina. “As soon as you cut into the ground it re­ally means some­thing. It changes the re­la­tion­ship between the land and the build­ing.”

While the ground floor is com­pli­cated by its re­la­tion­ship to the land, the top floor is com­pli­cated by its re­la­tion­ship to the view. “It was about not only how you could open it up, but how you could close it down,” says Gla­muz­ina. “It was about find­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties not to give them the com­plete­ness of the view but dif­fer­ent prox­im­i­ties of views.” To de­sign a long, north-fac­ing house that could take ad­van­tages of its panoramic po­ten­tial, Gla­muz­ina took the shape of the ground floor and slightly twisted it for the up­per floor. Or, as he says, “squeez­ing it like an ac­cor­dion”. View the house from a dis­tance, or mind­lessly move within it, and you can miss its angular com­plex­ity. The cop­per-clad struc­ture can­tilevers in ev­ery sin­gle di­rec­tion – there’s a tri­an­gu­lar bal­cony, wedges of space are cut-out and utilised to give the rooms the il­lu­sion of be­ing con­ven­tion­ally rec­tan­gu­lar. “With angular ge­om­e­try, it’s one of those things that once you start to gen­er­ate, there’s no turn­ing back.” Gla­muz­ina de­scribes it as a “puz­zle” of a house, de­signed with a sense of loose­ness and im­pro­vi­sa­tion rather than an over­rid­ing pat­tern or for­mula. Rather than be­ing hemmed in by a rig­or­ous or­der, he opted for con­tin­gency, al­low­ing a lit­tle ir­reg­u­lar­ity to find its way in. “Some­times a bit of ran­dom­ness can be way more in­ter­est­ing. It fucks with the mod­ernism, the per­fec­tion of it.” Which is not to say that the house isn’t im­pec­ca­ble. It is. The house was built by Gla­muz­ina’s brother Kevin, who lives on the is­land and talks proudly of the de­tail re­quired to build a house de­signed with so many ir­reg­u­lar an­gles. “There was no tol­er­ance,” says Kevin. “Ev­ery­thing had to be a mil­lime­ter tol­er­ance or noth­ing went to­gether.” The house rep­re­sents a turn­ing point in the way the Gla­muz­ina broth­ers work. Kevin says it’s the most com­plex house he’ll prob­a­bly ever build. Do­minic says his sec­ond project out of ar­chi­tec­ture school has in­formed his work ever since. “A lot of what I did here has ended up in other pieces,” says Do­minic. “It’s a lot to do with the idio­syn­cra­sies I found in­ter­est­ing. There’s got to be a prob­lem some­where. ““What was the prob­lem here?” I ask. “Try­ing to find a way to con­nect the build­ing to the land.”

Fac­ing page Gla­muz­ina de­cided to dig the house into the hill, then build it back up: as a re­sult, it sits both in and on the land. Left The long, north­fac­ing house twists and bends to take ad­van­tage of the panoramic views.

Above The ground floor con­tains all the liv­ing and social spa­ces. The ‘Barcelona’ chairs are by Lud­wig Mies van der Rohe for Knoll.

Left The ‘Amoenus’ sofa by Antonio Cit­te­rio for Max­alto is from Matisse.

Right A pool stretches out from the glazed liv­ing area.

Right The top level pitches out and over the lower level to cre­ate a tow­er­ing eave. Left The ‘Sim­plice’ din­ing ta­ble by Antonio Cit­te­rio for B&B Italia is from Matisse. The ‘DKR2’ din­ing chairs are by Charles and Ray Eames for Vi­tra. The pen­dant lights are by Glashütte Lim­burg.

Fol­low­ing page A bunker-like room con­tain­ing bunks and a sep­a­rate liv­ing area sits buried into the land be­low the pool. Be­low Look­ing back to­wards the en­trance, the stairs lead to the sec­ond level.

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