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Haunui House_View towards north over Porirua Harbour_1 of 6Some see archi­tec­ture as a glam­or­ous pro­fes­sion. It is. Although we are often up late think­ing about that geni­us detail, we have fun because we touch people’s lives. And it’s in the design of houses where we like to demon­strate our inspir­ing ideas. It is also the place where we have the most impact, in the archi­tec­ture of the ‘every­day’, as demon­strated by the pop­ular­ity of the tele­vi­sion show Grand Designs.

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When design­ing Wel­ling­ton houses we are graced with the most amaz­ing and diverse back­drops that provide the ‘chal­lenge-obsessed’ archi­tect with a dare to cre­ate an exper­i­ence befit­ting the land­scape. It’s is also an oppor­tun­ity to shape every facet of the ‘home’ exper­i­ence, from street pres­ence to the intim­ate spaces, under the most com­plex site con­di­tions. Part of cre­at­ing this exper­i­ence is the oppor­tun­ity to empower those explor­ing ‘house’ as a place to ‘dwell’.

Archi­tects who have accep­ted the chal­lenge, and been cri­tiqued by their peers, have been rewar­ded with New Zea­l­and Archi­tec­ture Awards by the New Zea­l­and Insti­tute of Archi­tects (NZIA). Giv­en annu­ally, these awards cel­eb­rate the most innov­at­ive, impress­ive and con­sidered designs in the region. Below is a sample of some of last year’s win­ners who have designed and built homes that will stand the test of time.

01 Exterior Elevation   Included in these awards is Gor­don Moller, for endur­ing archi­tec­ture. Moller is an estab­lished and well-respec­ted archi­tect who has been the author of beau­ti­ful homes for over 45 years. Arin­dam Sen, awards jury mem­ber for 2013, made the com­ment of Moller’s own home, designed in the mid-1980s, “it remains an excep­tion­al work of archi­tec­ture”. The house is a series of rich spaces that focus on the out­doors and is grouped around a court­yard that can be opened up or battened down to face the unpre­dict­able and uncom­prom­ising storms that can hit the Kapiti coast. It is these accol­ades, after dec­ades of con­stant inhab­it­a­tion, that archi­tects strive for.

Like Moller, some archi­tects chose to use a material’s qual­it­ies to play a key role in defin­ing spaces. The mater­i­al selec­tion reflects how their cli­ent may want to use the space, how they may want the space to make them feel, or how they want the room to relate to the land­scape bey­ond. The East­bourne House by Tennent+Brown uses this notion of the ‘con­sidered palette’ to define and emphas­ise space eleg­antly. The use of unpre­ten­tious cedar and con­crete cre­ate beau­ti­ful, bright interi­ors that make use of the light to cre­ate warm, cosy spaces. The house has out­stand­ing out­door space and in Wel­ling­ton we all know this means stand­ing up to the fierce ele­ments of an exposed site. In this instance, this irres­ist­ible and com­pel­ling shel­ter can also turn inwards on itself and focus on an enclosed garden.

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Anoth­er pro­ject that takes on a chal­len­ging site and makes the most of it is Box Living’s Cor­rondella pro­ject. This small hide­away is perched in a clear­ing between a storm­wa­ter drain and steep bush-clad hills. By adopt­ing a mod­u­lar box approach, which has become the company’s trade­mark, the archi­tect has embed­ded this house into the site. Using changes in levels, small nooks, and court­yards as exten­sions to space, the house appears lar­ger than its actu­al foot­print. Box Liv­ing has fash­ioned an eleg­ant sequence of rooms that response to site and brief. It is in the focus on sim­pli­city and detail where it mat­ters that Cor­rondella provides evid­ence that cost effect­ive­ness need not be the con­struc­tion of a stand­ard­ised plan. Through clev­er design and a rig­or­ous pro­cess, bespoke can pro­duce an eleg­ant and soph­ist­ic­ated home on budget. As a res­ult, the site has been max­im­ised and the dwell­ing designed to give rise to inspir­ing private views and sun-filled spaces: a warm little bush retreat in which to take res­pite from urb­an frenzy.

The bach and asso­ci­ated con­nota­tions of relax­a­tion over a beer — or Pinot — have reju­ven­ated a typo­logy that favours open-plan liv­ing and a rela­tion­ship with the land­scape. In the Par­a­pa­raumu House, Geoff Fletch­er Archi­tects has cre­ated an eleg­antly framed visu­al link to the exter­i­or via an under­stated form. This con­tain­er, anoth­er built on a budget, is an addi­tion to a clas­sic Kiwi bach. The soph­ist­ic­ated and unfussy detail­ing draws the lush bush in, to be absorbed and appre­ci­ated from a beau­ti­fully sculp­tured interi­or. A splash of col­our is used spar­ingly and only to reit­er­ate the fram­ing of the bush­s­cape. To enhance andHaunui House_Media Space_5 of 6com­plete the soph­ist­ic­ated extern­al form, the build­ing hov­ers over the land­scape on slender poles, a poet­ic solu­tion to con­struc­tion in a flood zone.

From small bach to the large, sweep­ing spaces of a mod­ern home by Bal­lara Bul­man Chin. Here, the archi­tect uses a work­ing farm­house to explore the open plan. To suit the needs of the Mangaroa fam­ily who live here, the build­ing has few walls and a large atri­um over the kit­chen, extend­ing the link to the upper floor. Extern­ally, a sheltered court­yard con­nects to the kitchen/living areas along the build­ing and is a sculp­tured trans­ition between inside and the land­scape beyond.

Some­times it is the bold use of mater­i­al and form that gives the archi­tec­ture its defin­ing char­ac­ter­ist­ics. Here, Kerr Ritch­ie have subtly manip­u­lated floor levels to organ­ise the open-plan liv­ing area, includ­ing a strong use of struc­tur­al form to add detail to both interi­or and exter­i­or. This house has taken over ten years to real­ise, and dur­ing that pro­cess of refine­ment every ele­ment has been per­fec­ted to provide stun­ning spa­tial qual­it­ies, with a care­ful atten­tion to detail.

In keep­ing with the idea of home as retreat, John Mills’ Tui House sits snug­gly in the bush set­ting. As the title sug­gests, it is inspired by the idea of mak­ing one’s home with­in the bush can­opy. Atop its domain, this beau­ti­fully craf­ted tree­house is a res­pite from the hec­tic city. Large decks reside over sweep­ing views, engen­der­ing a quiet envir­on­ment with­in which to relax and also with­draw. Mills’ hall­mark use of col­our has been con­ser­vat­ively applied as subtle shades of green against rich tim­bers. The col­ours rein­force an intern­al bush­s­cape in stained sheets of ply befit­ting this exquis­ite loc­a­tion and con­sidered spa­tial arrangement.

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Anoth­er pro­ject that uses col­our and the view bey­ond, Par­son­son Archi­tects’ Seatoun Heights House is a lovely com­pos­i­tion link­ing inside and out­side through framed view shafts. Due to the elev­a­tion of this site, the own­ers enjoy expans­ive views out over the har­bour while remain­ing sur­pris­ingly sheltered from pre­vail­ing north­erly winds. The top level is a large glazed plat­form, giv­ing rise to a light and warm liv­ing space made rich through the extens­ive use of tim­ber. In con­trast, the lower-floor rooms gain warmth through intim­acy. The smal­ler spaces rely on a rela­tion­ship to land­scape through a con­trolled pan­or­ama to give each room space, focus and a dis­tinct iden­tity. Link­ing both levels is the nuc­le­us, or fam­ily room, which is envel­oped in green, walls and floors. This delight­ful play with col­our punc­tu­ates the trans­ition and lit­er­ally brings the out­side in. It’s ges­ture ques­tions that line between dwell­ing, site and interior.


Wak­ing, sleep­ing, re-cre­at­ing, lov­ing and liv­ing. We spend so much time in our houses that it seems a shame not to make your place of res­id­ence both func­tion­al and a place of interest. The house designs fea­tured in this art­icle play with many con­cepts around how to dwell. With both large and small sites, and large and small budgets, the architect’s aim is to pro­ject the per­sona of the cli­ent through archi­tec­tur­al expres­sion. There’s more to design­ing a house than just bed­rooms and liv­ing rooms under a roof. The house has evolved into spaces that sym­bol­ise the per­son­al, an exhib­i­tion of our tastes, val­ues and even our per­son­al­it­ies. It is a place to ori­ent­ate ourselves, our lives and the lives of oth­ers, through care­ful design that takes into con­sid­er­a­tion every mil­li­metre. The home can become a res­pite that refreshes and inspires, pre­par­ing us for our increas­ingly intens­ive urb­an lives.

A pro­verb from the Tales of the Hasi­dim tells of a tour­ist who paid a vis­it to a renowned rabbi, Chofetz Chaim. He was aston­ished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench.

Rabbi,” asked the tour­ist, “where is your furniture?”

Where is yours?” replied the rabbi.

Mine?” asked the tour­ist, “but I am only passing though.”

So am I,” said the rabbi.

What is home to you?


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