NZIA Architecture Awards 2018

In the NZIA Architecture Awards announced last night, five striking timber homes that interact closely with their environment were singled out for recognition. 

The The Sir Ian Athfield Award for Housing was won by Kawakawa House at Piha,
on Auckland’s west coast. It was designed by Herbst Architects.

The brief called for a beach house which takes advantage of the spectacular natural environment surrounding the site – to be used year round.
The site is at the base of a steep mountain slope behind the beach completely covered in tall mature Pohutukawa trees. With access via a right of way, an existing two storey house is in front of the site obscuring views to the ocean from the lower level.
As it is overhung by trees and under mountain peaks to the east which curve around to the North, it is extremely sun challenged and subject to regular onshore winds in the summer months.
So Herbst Architects raised the living functions of the house onto an upper level for ocean views from the living room. They lifted up the bedrooms closer to the light and the canopy of the trees.
To take advantage of the spectacular view of the Pohutukawa trees and mountain surrounding the house as well as to let light in from above, they set up a continuous clerestory window to the perimeter of the upper volume.
The upper level plan is a simple rectangle with an open central courtyard. It brings light into the heart of the upper level and the functions of the house circulate around it.
The main living space is construed as a covered deck with a balustraded open mouth to the view. The central courtyard provides a protected outdoor living area when the wind is blowing from the west.

Edwards White Architects-designed River Retreat, near Taupiri in the Waikato, has been recognised in the Small Project category.

“This delightful response to a narrow site has been orientated to capture the best of the sun and views of the Waikato River. It is a wonderful example of how contemporary architecture can be integrated into the landscape. From the private and somewhat mysterious approach – the result of a clever façade application – the house presents a clearly defined entrance that dissolves into a minimalist interior where the kitchen is indeed the heart of the home.”

– NZIA Waikato / Bay of Plenty Jury

Stevens Lawson Architects received an award in the residential category for the ‘earthy and soulful’ Rawene House in Westmere, Auckland.

This house rests at the harbour’s edge in the leafy Auckland suburb of Westmere.

The owner was committed to eastern spirituality and nourishment of the soul and Stevens Lawson’s role was to interpret this in a New Zealand context with a house that belonged to this place. They aimed to create an earthy and soulful home, a place of spiritual calm and a peaceful haven in the city.
A rough, textured insitu cast concrete wall forms a spine, defining the ridgeline and the circulation flow through the house. Landscaped courtyards open off either side allowing sunlight, air and nature into the heart of the house. The steeply angled roof planes and peripheral walls are clad in cedar shingles, like a feather cloak draped over the structure.
The living areas overlook the waterfront, while spaces for sleeping, yoga and music open onto private courtyards. Full height glazing gives a sense of transparency, allowing the presence of the harbour to be felt throughout the house.
It is envisaged that the house will play host to meditation retreats and spiritual workshops.
This is also a healthy house specifically designed to minimise toxins and electromagnetic radiation. Natural materials, finishes and hand made products have been used throughout; while the structure is made from timber, with no structural steel.
Employing passive design principles, the house includes photovoltaic cells, rainwater harvesting, LED lighting, and a charging station for an electric vehicle.

Turama, a Rotorua house designed by RTA Studio, shows how connections can be made with the environment.

Turama is a new house typology seeking to make residential architecture that is both deeply rooted in the whakapapa (genealogy) of this family and formally responsive to the landscape beyond the footprint of the site. The concept was generated by RTA Studio collaborating with Professor Paul Tapsell. Turama means ‘to light with a torch’, or ‘to give light to’. In this sense the intention is for this house and what it represents to be a beacon for the whanau and community.

The house is designed as a multi-generational retreat for the whanau offering manaaki (hospitality/comfort) to the whanau for current and future generations. The house is located on longstanding whenua (land) at the foot hills of Mount Ngongotaha in Rotorua which has been in the family for 16 generations. The house’s current context is in one of Rotorua’s poorest suburbs, within a cluster of state housing.

The planning of the house makes reference to three principal genealogical ley lines: Ngongotaha Maungatautari (Mt Maungatautari); Maketu Ongatoro (Maketu on the East Coast) and Ra’iatea Taputaputea (Tahiti). The house formally responds to the aspiration of continuing to provide a cloak of protection over those who stay there with the house’s form wrapping around and protecting those within. The cloak form is embellished with oxidised steel pattern work from the family cloak. The timber posts which wrap around the house make reference to the forest, allowing those within the house to look out through the tree trunks.

Irving Smith Architects won an award in the Housing – Alterations and Additions category
for Bach with Two Roofs, in Golden Bay.

New Zealand was the last landmass to be inhabited, and then deforested with unrivalled speed. Its new cleared landscapes are still so young they shift, when they fail new native trees grow. It might take a hundred years or more, but buildings that participate in this shift could one day inhabit near-original forest. This is something new, for New Zealand architecture was established and has remained in clearings. To inhabit its original forest landscape, architecture must understand existing context rather than generate new landscapes, it must be soft, patient and ready to change.

Bach-with-Two-Roofs found itself in a shifting landscape. Irving Smith Architects designed four buildings between 2007 and 2112 to provide holiday accommodation in an exotic forest. Sheltering low beneath imported eucalypts, the buildings have sacrificial roofing and recessive interiors, and share the space between trees. Holidays were private and hidden.

In 2014 a cyclone cleared the forest. The two roofs limit damage, but the buildings require more than repair, they need re-finishing. Without the trees the site is exposed, the wind stronger, the sun hotter, even the building’s colour and proportions feel misplaced. Holidays here aren’t supposed to be about hiding and finding shade.

The post-cyclone additions re-finish the buildings to the new clearing, but do so by understanding a landscape that continues to shift, and a native forest that in time will again conceal and shelter. A shade building is added, filtering light and sitting low for the main buildings to recede behind. Frames tack lightly to existing structures, widening cover and shadow to provide privacy and retreat. But these new elements are adaptable and expect to be repositioned and changed as the forest grows. Holidays resume, but being finished is finished, this landscape is shifting…