De­sign notebook

Q&A with Ju­lian Mitchell of Mitchell Stout Dodd Ar­chi­tects

HOME Magazine NZ - - More Than An Elegant Shed -

Both owner and ar­chi­tect were sailors. How did that in­flu­ence the de­sign?

Well, they got on re­ally well for a start! While there are some nau­ti­cal as­pects to the house – such as the boat hull form over the main liv­ing space, the use of ropes and pul­leys to haul in the big awning win­dow, and the re­laxed open­ness of the house – it is per­haps the way the house sits on the banks of the bay, bow to the sea, ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing a lift in the wind that is the strong­est thing about it.

This was David’s last house. What did it share with his pre­vi­ous work?

It ex­em­pli­fies David’s usual at­ten­tion to de­tail us­ing rel­a­tively run-of-the-mill ma­te­ri­als to pro­duce well formed, rich and de­light­ful spa­ces de­signed around hu­man habi­ta­tion and ac­tiv­ity. Colours and forms are strong, clear and up­lift­ing and the plan is eco­nom­i­cal in its pro­por­tion, but never tight.

He only de­signed two houses in Christchurch, and those to­ward the end of his ca­reer – why is that?

Christchurch is a hard nut to crack and it was only af­ter the earth­quake that we found work there, de­spite be­ing keen to do it. There’s a dis­tinct Christchurch style that is gen­er­ally more re­strained than David’s fairly idio­syn­cratic work. How­ever, in this case it was what at­tracted the clients to him.

The own­ers’ re­sponse to the ini­tial de­sign was to ask for some­thing bolder. Do you re­mem­ber what David said?

He’d re­ally strug­gled fit­ting the house in, given the tight height re­stric­tions and a new re­quire­ment to lift the floor up a me­tre above the flood plain; he had to work it hard to shoe­horn it in. When the clients came back want­ing more he said some­thing like: “Gee, sounds like I’ve un­der­cooked it. I’d bet­ter give it a few more revs!”

3 7 6 6 2 1 7 3 5 4 2 2 1. En­try 2. Deck 3. Liv­ing 4. Din­ing 5. Kitchen 6. Bath­room 7. Bed­room Ground floor First floor

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