Sometimes, it’s an architect’s job to make as little impact as possible.
‘When the owners purchased the site it was a vacant hillside of some 8.5 hectares’, explains Sarah Gilbertson, Principal architect and designer at Auckland-based firm Cheshire Architects. ‘Their first occupation of the site was built mostly by themselves.’ A timber-lined container was placed high on a hill with a large deck oriented towards the view, an outdoor bathroom, BBQ and campfire. The dwelling was simple, and the life lived in it was one closely aligned with nature.
With a desire to maintain the informality of this original settlement, Cheshire Architects proposed three separate structures that housed different functions – one for living, one for sleeping and bathing, and another one for guests – more like an encampment than a single house. The three structures are separate, but connected, arranged around a sunny courtyard that acts as a natural meeting place.
The main living pavilion is a humble but generous structure, its pitched roof emerging from the skyline. ‘[It] appears wedged into the hillside, its gable form emphasised by the falling slope of the hill, anchoring the informal courtyard and bedrooms which are nestled behind it’, says Sarah. Clad in timber and lined with recycled Oregon boards, all but the necessities are stripped away. A magnificent concrete dining table grounds the space, extending from the internal living area right out into the external courtyard.
Sleeping + bathing areas for the owners and their occasional guests occupy the remaining two pavilions. The structures are cloaked in canvas, to ‘amplify the intricate woodiness of the cabin thresholds by contrasting them with a skin that is both taught and soft’, Sarah explains.’These buildings are a family of similar but not identical parts, all of which sit comfortably in the landscape’
Cheshire Architects have not only designed a beautiful home here, but provided the tools and space for a quiet life of simple fulfilment.