This is a se­cluded spot that lo­cals sim­ply call ‘Tara’

Ger­rad Hall de­signs a se­ries of mod­ern farm build­ings for col­lab­o­ra­tive clients in a val­ley near Man­gawhai.

HOME Magazine NZ - - This Is A Secluded Spot That Locals Simply Call ‘t - Text Anthony Byrt Pho­tog­ra­phy Simon De­vitt

Man­gawhai is one of those pretty east coast spots within strik­ing dis­tance of Auck­land:

in­evitably, this has led to a lot of new sub­di­vi­sions. But out the back of town, there’s still a se­cluded, pri­vate spot the lo­cals sim­ply call ‘Tara’: a long, wind­ing stretch of road that leads to Tara Peak. So far, it hasn’t been chopped up into any­thing smaller than a few acres. It’s also an or­chardists’ and gar­den­ers’ par­adise, with some of the best vol­canic soil in the North Is­land. Sev­eral years ago, Auck­land clients of ar­chi­tect Ger­rad Hall bought a cou­ple of hectares on Tara Road that back onto pro­tected na­tive bush. Hall had pre­vi­ously de­signed a cel­e­brated court­yard home for the cou­ple in Free­mans Bay, Auck­land. But this pre­sented a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge – one he was well pre­pared for, hav­ing spent his child­hood on a dairy farm in Orewa, north of Auck­land. One of the clients had also grown up on a farm. The an­swer be­came clear: a se­ries of homages to North­land farm build­ings. The project was also shaped by the clients’ de­sire for a hands-on role in the build. Or­di­nar­ily, Hall would have been cau­tious, but this was dif­fer­ent. “It’s a special project,” he says. “Their sen­si­bil­i­ties are dif­fer­ent from the main­stream.” He points out the ter­raced land­scap­ing that falls down the hill from the house like an am­phithe­atre. “There’s al­most a bit of Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown in some of the am­bi­tion,” he says, laugh­ing.

It was a sim­i­lar process in Free­mans Bay. The clients

had shown con­fi­dence in Hall to try things out, and he’d re­alised their eye for de­tail. The Man­gawhai col­lab­o­ra­tion is a re­sult of this mu­tual trust: a sub­tle group of farm-in­spired struc­tures, a re­lief from the mono-pitch mono­liths and sea-fac­ing glass boxes on the coastal strip between Matakana and Waipu. The main house is a two-storey barn build­ing, which seems to pop up out of nowhere as you come up the long drive­way. Its most strik­ing fea­ture is a par­tial screen of ver­ti­cal slats of hard­wood deck­ing off-cuts, which both ob­scures the liv­ing spa­ces tucked be­hind it and breaks up the sun as it hits the build­ing. The screen is a nod to hay stor­age sheds, which are of­ten par­tially open for air­flow and to re­duce con­struc­tion costs. The en­trance to the house it­self is sim­ple and prac­ti­cal, open­ing to a walk­way that leads to bed­rooms and an of­fice. But it’s down­stairs that the home re­ally earns its ‘farm­house’ cre­den­tials. The kitchen, with its big

din­ing ta­ble, two-storey win­dows that look out to the veg­etable gar­den and Aga-es­que stove is a fo­cus, both of the build­ing and the way the cou­ple lives within it. They’re avid cooks and the pav cool­ing in the oven when I showed up was the per­fect homestead cliché. The kitchen gives the first clues about the home’s in­te­rior evo­lu­tion. The own­ers com­mit­ted to not us­ing plas­ter­board any­where, in­stead mix­ing ply with found and nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als. The brick wall between the pantry and kitchen uses bricks from the cou­ple’s first home (long since de­mol­ished) in Pon­sonby. They’ve been lug­ging them around for decades. The liv­ing room is a space for talk­ing and be­ing, rather than sofa-slouch­ing and star­ing at a TV. It also has the most dis­tinc­tive ma­te­rial choice in the house: wide to­tara boards line the walls and were milled by cab­i­net­mak­ers who live up the road. “I al­most ap­pre­ci­ate the house more for be­ing a bit looser,” says Hall, of some of these fea­tures. “I might have her­met­i­cally sealed ev­ery­thing and made it too per­fect. Next to the house is what Hall jok­ingly calls the “watch­tower”: a tall, nar­row struc­ture with a bed­room, bath­room and liv­ing area for guests. Like the main build­ing, there are twists and turns, nooks and com­plex ma­te­rial jux­ta­po­si­tions. As Hall walks me through, I can al­most see his brain still hurt­ing from all the de­tail re­quired to make it work. But the pay­off comes at the top: a clear view across the trees and all the way down the drive, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for some­one to sneak up unan­nounced. As Hall points out, it’s also a riff on the grain silo form – an agri­cul­tural ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the “hay barn” next door. “I think the per­vad­ing feel­ing of the project is nos­tal­gia,” he says, “and al­most in a child­like sense, like the tower and the sim­ple shapes of the build­ings.” The danger was that the col­lab­o­ra­tive process and mix of ma­te­ri­als would make it a mish­mash. But there’s a sense of con­tin­gency, prag­ma­tism and in­ti­macy about the way the house is fin­ished. The view is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial to this, too. The to­tara on the walls con­nects the inside to the out­side, speak­ing to the prom­ise that, over time, the house will be­come even more a part of where it is. It’s the per­fect view for a home that asks not to be looked at, but lived in.

Be­low Lit­tle cutouts form look­outs in the con­crete watch­tower, which ac­com­mo­dates guests. Left A col­lec­tion of build­ings that riff on barns and a grain silo re­veal them­selves as you wind your way up the drive­way.

Left Turk stretches out on the rug by the ta­ble.

Be­low The to­tara lin­ing the liv­ing room walls con­nects the in­te­rior to the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. Out­side, the land falls away to a gully where the grass ends and the bush takes over. The piece on the wall is by Sa­man­tha Ever­ton. The side­board is by David White. The ‘Tio’ chairs are by Nathan Goldswor­thy for Goldswor­thy from Cult De­sign. Right From the kitchen, you step down to the liv­ing area where a bench seat is built into a cor­ner. The ‘Rubi’ ta­ble is from BoCon­cept.

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