Architecture Workshop set out to create a house that was generous in its civic contribution to the public realm of the street while effortlessly delivering both functionality and a much desired secure retreat for the clients.
Our thinking was influenced by the approach of the Smithsons, British designers in the 1950s who looked at existing local patterns. They were not so convinced by Corbusier’s 'machines for living' and his associated and more alarming 'erasure of place'. More carefully, the Smithsons went back and examined the patterns of existing cities.
We were looking at ordinary conditions, not high architecture. Our interest was in the common place, in conditions closer to the vernacular and the ‘as found’. Architecture which is in favour of engaging memories in all of us; using a simple form and allowing it to be modelled by the forces of a particular situation.
Alison and Peter Smithsons
We nicknamed this project ‘urban hinge’ as it responds to the end of the St. Gerard’s green town belt and the 16m high Oriental Parade height limit. Like its neighbours, it is sited close to the street edge/property line. The plan is arranged in two wings of slightly different orientation and hinged around the landscaped entry terraces that connect the green belt with the street. These amplify the subtle change in street direction and open the house to sun and views, especially from deeper in the site. They also grant more security to the inhabitants in what is a very public site.
The two narrow wings have distinct qualities to match their use and orientation. The thick walled living wing to the north encompasses the night living and bedroom spaces. One room deep, the thick walls provide the occupants with a greater sense of retreat and security. This contrasts with the southern wing where the cantilevered living room is more transparent and tectonic. It has large opening sliding glass windows layered with cedar louvre screens to control the sun and privacy providing both passive surveillance of the busy Parade and panoramic views of the Tararua Ranges. The central garden terraces enliven the streetscape, as well as provide entry to the second level front door, sunny elevated play spaces, and a covered BBQ area for family use.
The building provides a balance between enclosure and openness that is tailored to the client. With increasing density in the formation of the inner city, residential architecture has an important role to play in the enrichment of our social experience.
NZIA Wellington Architecture Awards, 2015