On the out­skirts of Han­mer Springs, a hol­i­day home draws on mem­o­ries of camp grounds and small alpine build­ings.


A fam­ily bach near Han­mer Springs by Cy­mon All­frey brings back the magic of camp­ing.

He might be an ex­pe­ri­enced Christchurch ar­chi­tect, but Cy­mon All­frey made a rookie er­ror when de­sign­ing his fam­ily bach at Han­mer: he for­got he had a client.

“As a fam­ily, we had dis­cussed what we’d like out of a hol­i­day house in terms of amenity, but not about how we’d like to live in it, or the style, or ma­te­ri­als,” says Cy­mon, prin­ci­pal of Christchurch-based Cy­mon All­frey Ar­chi­tects. “I’d skipped the usual process you go through with a client, and just did a sketch.” That orig­i­nal con­cept of a two-storey dwelling didn’t sur­vive the scru­tiny of his wife An­gela and their two teenage daugh­ters. In its place, Cy­mon has de­signed some­thing looser, more in­no­va­tive, and more sym­pa­thetic to the fam­ily’s goal of a dwelling that in­spires gen­uine hol­i­day liv­ing. Set above the Chat­ter­ton River, at the edge of Han­mer’s ur­ban-ru­ral bound­ary, the All­frey re­treat is a camp-like ar­range­ment of three build­ings around a com­mu­nal out­door space. The main ‘pods’ – a mir­ror­like pair of dark asym­met­ric pavil­ions – frame a raised out­door din­ing plat­form and sunken con­crete space that some­one has chalked into a rough four-square court. Be­yond is a large lawn – per­fectly pro­por­tioned for back­yard cricket – above which rises the third build­ing, a whim­si­cal three-storey tim­ber tower, with a ca­nary yel­low stair­way on one side, and a child’s swing sus­pended from the other. It’s a folly – or rather a “faux folly”, pro­vid­ing use­ful stor­age for bikes and fire­wood, and with a three-bed bunkroom at the top. On bright days it casts a sun­dial-like shadow. “By fol­low­ing it, you can de­cide when to switch from a chardon­nay to a pinot noir,” says Cy­mon.

The site’s or­gan­i­sa­tion grew out of a hand­ful of re­lated ob­jec­tives. One is the no­tion that the bach should be an “in­ter-gen­er­a­tional as­set”, flex­i­ble enough to be en­joyed by Cy­mon and An­gela hol­i­day­ing alone, or as a fam­ily of four, or by groups of ex­tended fam­ily and friends – to ex­pand and con­tract at will. To that end, the main pod is self-con­tained, with a large kitchen and liv­ing space, while its more bare-bones coun­ter­part in­cludes a fold-out bed in the liv­ing room wall for over­flow guests. The idea is that the All­freys and guests can re­tire to their own spa­ces, but that even­tu­ally ev­ery­one is tugged back to the com­mu­nal ar­eas. “We can all be here to­gether, but not in each other’s faces,” says An­gela. If this camp-like ar­range­ment de­mands a few com­pro­mises – some ‘mak­ing do’ – that’s en­tirely de­lib­er­ate, says Cy­mon, who equates the route to reach the folly with the typ­i­cal odyssey to the bath­room and show­ers at a pub­lic camp­ground. “I like that sense of it be­ing a jour­ney. You have to work for it, to get cold in the win­ter, and wet in the rain.”

If this camp-like ar­range­ment de­mands a few com­pro­mises – some ‘mak­ing do’ – that’s en­tirely de­lib­er­ate.

They’ve taken a sim­i­larly down-to-earth ap­proach to aes­thet­ics. Most of the pri­mary struc­tures were pre­fab­ri­cated us­ing 170mm-thick in­su­lated cross­lam­i­nated tim­ber and glu­lam, with only a sker­rick of painted MDF lin­ing. “That was partly for speed and ef­fi­ciency,” says Cy­mon, of the de­ci­sion to pre­fab­ri­cate. “But it was also partly for the visual qual­i­ties of the ma­te­ri­als. We chose a fairly low-grade pine, one step up from con­struc­tion-grade, and that tim­ber tells a story – we’ve spent hours study­ing those knots for faces.” In the same spirit, the folly’s un­treated cedar cladding will sil­ver with age, and – to the builder’s hor­ror – the fam­ily has de­lib­er­ately scuffed up the pre­fab tim­ber floors. In ev­ery re­spect, it’s de­signed to be the an­tithe­sis of their Merivale town­house. A risk of pre­fab­ri­cat­ing the home, how­ever, was that it lacks mass. Cy­mon says he wor­ried that they would strug­gle to mod­er­ate the tem­per­a­ture and re­tain heat. As an an­ti­dote, he spec­i­fied a heavy con­crete hearth around the fire­place, adding mass while also buffer­ing the fire from the neigh­bour­ing win­dow seat. The pay­off of the low mass is that the main pods sit in­cred­i­bly lightly on the land, an im­pres­sion re­in­forced by the pre­cip­i­tous 65-de­gree roof pitch. In lieu of a fourth wall, the roof is drawn to the ground, sug­ges­tive of a tent.

These idio­syn­cratic forms are Cy­mon’s re­sponse to the lo­cal coun­cil’s ‘alpine char­ac­ter’ de­sign guide­lines, which among other things stip­u­late a min­i­mum 25-de­gree roof pitch. One of his fears dur­ing the de­sign phase was that they’d end up with some­thing re­sem­bling a clus­ter of bor­ing stor­age sheds in a pad­dock. By ramp­ing up the pitch, while also stretch­ing the folly to the max­i­mum per­mis­si­ble height, he has cre­ated an in­ter­play of di­verse shapes, heights and an­gles that ex­press the no­tion of alpine char­ac­ter far more dy­nam­i­cally. How is the place per­form­ing? At the time of writ­ing, the fam­ily had had six months to ac­cli­ma­tise to the hol­i­day home, in­clud­ing a first Christ­mas (for 14 peo­ple), fol­lowed by sev­eral weeks of vis­i­tors com­ing and go­ing. “One of the things we talked about in the early stages was whether ar­chi­tec­ture could in­flu­ence your mood or state of mind,” says Cy­mon. “I think this has. We live here in a way that is quite dif­fer­ent to how we live at home. Here, we very sel­dom wouldn’t eat to­gether around a ta­ble. Lit­tle things like that have been the nicest sur­prise.” An­gela cites a Jan­uary day when a large group was stay­ing. A cou­ple of kids were play­ing vol­ley­ball, some­one was in the hot tub be­side the folly, oth­ers were play­ing a board game, and she was cook­ing on a por­ta­ble hob at the out­side ta­ble while oth­ers grazed. “I looked up at one point and thought: ‘This is it; this is what we wanted’.”

Left The hol­i­day home pitches two asym­met­ric pods across an out­door din­ing deck and sunken con­crete space. A third pod, a tim­ber tower, con­tains a bunkroom and stor­age.

Above The main pod is self-con­tained with all ameni­ties, while its bare-bones coun­ter­part has a fold-out bed for over­flow guests. The de­sign and its lay­out func­tions for a cou­ple, a fam­ily and groups. Grace All­frey and Tala, the fam­ily dog, cross the court­yard to the main liv­ing area.

Be­low The pri­mary struc­tures were pre­dom­i­nantly pre­fab­ri­cated us­ing 170mm-thick, in­su­lated cross-lam­i­nated tim­ber and glu­lam, with only the barest amount of painted MDF lin­ing. Grace and Cy­mon in the kitchen and liv­ing area.

Left Shelv­ing is bu­lit into the slop­ing roofline.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.