Local farm buildings inspired the form and aesthetic of this house; long pitched roofs break down its scale and allow it to reach into the landscape. Photography Simon Devitt.
Our brief was to design a practical family home that could accommodate visiting adult children, spouses and grandchildren. Our clients, Ken and Helen, had been living in an Art Deco house on their avocado orchard just up the road. Their brief was for a property with a pitched roof and eaves that was also subtly wheelchair-friendly to make it easy for visiting relatives and friends. This was to be their retirement home.
Shelter and privacy
The first challenge was placing the house on the 1.6 hectare green field section that was part of a larger rural subdivision. And one of our aims was to disturb the ground minimally, with as little excavation as possible.
We selected a site that sloped gently south over the rolling grasslands, but which afforded views towards the native bush and beyond to the beautiful Brynderwyns. The orientation of the house was then tuned between a northerly aspect and these views from the main living areas.
Mangawhai is close to the portage between two harbours. It’s exposed to the infamous cold south easterly that can blow from the Kaipara. This meant that we needed to consider shelter from these conditions.
We developed the layout of the home from the idea that each room should have a different view of the surrounding land. Each would be fed with natural light during the day, and all were positioned to provide privacy from the rest of the house so that every room could become a retreat when required.
A progression through spaces
We divided the floor plan into three pavilions linked by a main corridor. This was fully glazed and ensured easy access and flow to each part of the building. In between the pavilions, we added gardens. Moving through these glazed corridors with the gardens outside created the effect of traversing a series of separate but interconnected landscapes. Subsequently, these external spaces have matured to beautiful, well-maintained natural spaces that seem to change with the seasons.
The three pavilions were also a deliberate strategy aimed at keeping costs of construction down on the overall project. The bedroom and garage wings are standard flat ceiling, trussed roof structures. However the front of house or third pavilion is an open portal with a timber vaulted ceiling, roof light and glazing to match.
An extended roof over a northeast facing deck expands the living area and provides shelter from the sun and rain. The concrete in-situ wall wraps around the west face of the deck to provide privacy and protection from north easterlies over the summer months. The deck is less than 900 mm from ground level eliminating the requirement for handrails and other visual distractions. A simple pergola shades the northern windows.
Automatic attenuators control the main pavilion roof light. These open and shut in response to certain pre-determined temperatures.
To emphasise the idea of touching the ground lightly, we placed the house on timber piles. This greatly minimised the amount of site works, leaving the land contours largely untouched and the house sitting comfortably within the landscape.
The fireplace was constructed of concrete as a sculptural, anchoring element. In this, we referenced nearby chimney relics were the house had fallen away over time and left the fireplace as a marker showing this was once a place where people lived and played.
The exterior cladding is mainly corrugated iron. This echoed nearby hay barns and farm buildings. We added timber underbelly soffits to warm the internal space. Floors are of tongue-and-grooved Tasmanian oak, hand-selected to provide a beautiful honey colour that will look even better with age.
To fulfil our clients’ brief for subtle wheelchair access, we integrated ramps, wider corridors and low threshold steps in doorways and showers. These also add a sense of quality and ease to the house.
The kitchen and bathrooms are finished with composite stone bench tops, ceramic tiles on walls and bathroom floors along with lacquered cabinetry.
The hardboard plywood ceiling in the living area adds depth to the space and partners well with the long ‘off the board’ concrete wall. Walls and the balance of ceilings carry a simplistic palate of warm whites. These allow the furniture, rugs and fittings to add colour and vibrancy.
Long after the project’s completion, we are fortunate to be regularly invited back to share a glass of wine on the deck, overlooking those wonderful Brynderwyn hills – something we savour at every opportunity!
Architect David Wingate of Wingate+Farquhar has gained a broad experience in New Zealand and the UK across public, education, commercial, retail and residential buildings. He strives for high-quality design solutions to meet clients’ needs in all respects: visually, environmentally, technically, on time and on budget. His design method involves close dialogue with the client to explore and develop the brief, and to ensure that the design grows out of a shared understanding of the opportunities and the constraints.