De­sign notebook

Q&A with Lance Herbst of Herbst Ar­chi­tects

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What was the brief like? The brief was quite straight­for­ward. The clients es­sen­tially wanted a beach house with a main bed­room, guest bed­room and a bunkroom for over­flow. But they put a lot of faith in us. They were quite ar­chi­tec­turally ex­pe­ri­enced, as they had built houses be­fore and un­der­stood the ups and downs that go with that process. They were re­ally good at brief­ing us, then em­pow­er­ing us to come up with an in­ter­est­ing re­sponse to the brief.

De­scribe the roof de­sign. What were you try­ing to achieve vis­ually, and how com­pli­cated was it tech­ni­cally?

The idea with the roof was to lift the perime­ter up all the way around the build­ing and sep­a­rate it from the wall pane by a con­tin­u­ous clerestory win­dow to en­gage with the tree canopy. In­versely, we wanted to keep the para­pet height of the court­yard as low as pos­si­ble to al­low a view up to the trees and moun­tain from the liv­ing room and pas­sages to the bed­rooms, and to al­low as much light as pos­si­ble to pen­e­trate. This re­sulted in the in­ward slop­ing roof – the dom­i­nant fea­ture of the house. Tech­ni­cally, it did get com­plex in that the plan is not a true square, but the ceil­ing plane needed to re­solve in­ter­nally on a fixed da­tum line and crit­i­cally at the four folds of the ceil­ing. This re­sulted in the ceil­ing and roof planes be­ing at dif­fer­ent pitches on two of the roof faces, so it re­quired de­tailed 3D mod­el­ling to re­solve the struc­ture and junc­tions. We thought it was pretty tricky but our in­cred­i­ble builders were to­tally un­fazed. In your de­sign of the ‘Lin­dale’ bach on Great Bar­rier, you de­lib­er­ately pre­served the feel­ing of camp­ing, in­clud­ing some of its in­con­ve­niences. In the book, New Zealand Houses by Pa­trick Reynolds, you were quoted as say­ing “con­ve­nience robs a hol­i­day of its rit­u­als”. How is your ap­proach to this house dif­fer­ent? Ha, I’ve got into a bit of trou­ble for that com­ment. But there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween a bach, where you might only spend a few weeks ev­ery year, and build­ings where peo­ple might want to spend two months in July, when it would not be re­spon­si­ble to make peo­ple walk out­side to get to the bed­room. We might do that in a real bach, when we have clients who go along with that and we can push it re­ally hard. But it doesn’t re­ally ap­ply when we’re talk­ing about a beach house.

How is a beach house dif­fer­ent from a home-house? It needs to feel like a beach house, like you’re get­ting away from the city, but be friendly in all weather and sus­tain pro­longed oc­cu­pa­tion. You still want to cre­ate a feel­ing of dif­fer­ence, in terms of how it’s made and the ma­te­ri­als used, and the way it en­gages with the nat­u­ral environment. Here, you have ex­pan­sive sea views and the trees feel like they’re com­ing in­side; it al­lows for a very pow­er­ful re­sponse to na­ture.

7 6 6 6 8 5 9 4 11 10 First floor

3 1 2 Ground floor 1. En­try 2. Stor­age 3. Laun­dry 4. Kitchen 5. En suite 6. Bed­room 7. Deck 8. Bath­room 9. Court­yard 10. Liv­ing 11. Din­ing

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