Big House, Small House, New Homes by New Zealand
Architects, the latest book by John Walsh and
photographer Patrick Reynolds, shows why New Zealand's
residential architecture is so well-regarded. Here's an
When the members of a New Zealand Architecture Awards jury
drove up to this house and alighted from their people-mover
the sense of relief was palpable.
You'd expect some whimpers of pleasure from passengers being
let out of a van after hours of journeying up, down and
around Central Otago's mountain ranges, especially if they
had been liberated into the crisp, clean air of a fine and
still autumn afternoon, but there was even more point to
After days of contemplating houses and holiday houses
distinguished by the abundance of their amenity and the
burnish of their materials, that is, by the application of
money, it was refreshing to encounter a building that
expresses a simple design principle: enough is enough.
Anna-Marie Chin took her lead for the siting and design of
this house - commissioned by a relative of the architect -
from a couple of Kiwi archetypes.
As you would, it's tempting to add: there's nothing in the
adjacent built environment worth emulating.
Located in the lee of Mount Iron, the house sits on the edge
of one of the subdivisions spawned by the popularity of
Wanaka. As is commonly the case with the new Central Otago
suburban developments, the foreground is forgettable, while
the backdrop is ineffable.
Simple forms are best equipped to stand up to the twin
challenges of this context, and simple ideas offer the best
chance of successful realisation.
Thus, the models the architect invoked were basic types that
appeared very early in this country's settler repertoire. The
section was envisaged as a campsite, Chin says, with an
expanse of grassy land on which to pitch the main ''tent'',
and other camping spots in small clearings in the
neighbouring kanuka scrub.
And the house itself, formally and materially, is suggestive
of the shearing shed, for a century the symbol of New
Zealand's political economy, the no-frills building that
justified all those cleared and eroded hillsides.
The house is a long tin and plywood structure with a hole in
the middle. On either flank of this roofed courtyard, which
offers a visual connection between the buildings front and
rear (or arrival side), is a pod - one for the owners, and
one for guests.
The gable extends over raised decking, forming on the front
elevation a veranda that wouldn't look out of place on the
street frontage of a Wild West cow town.
It would be a good place to recline in the sunshine, chew on
a piece of straw and contemplate the architectural
significance of the rural values of sufficiency and economy.