Houses revisited: up to the periscope | Architecture now


For an Auckland home, this family home in Devonport is truly lovely, something not a slave to style for once but tied to its site and well suited to the lives of its owners. As a project on a very small property, beset by Council planning rules and guidelines, it has had its moments but its owners say “it did better than we expected.” You have the impression of being at home and it fits into the neighborhood ”.

The house is perched on the edge of a cliff in North Head just above Torpedo Bay. For decades, the Navy occupied the foreshore below the site. The house has been rebuilt in the imprint of an original arts and crafts chalet, with additions in the form of pavilions to the west. The owners lived in the chalet for a year to get used to the site, but the original house was too far away to be preserved in any way. Council planning rules are strict in Devonport and heritage issues were always going to be a concern, especially for a house located at the base of one of Auckland’s iconic volcanic cones and so visible from the water. The owners had several meetings with the North Shore City Council and its heritage advisers to define the constraints before approaching the architects. Even then, there was some drama during the construction process when it was discovered that the original structure was in worse condition than expected and a replacement was needed.

Looking for the site across the harbor to downtown Auckland. Picture:

Simon devitt

The old cottage has been practically rebuilt on the same floor space and roof slope, although things are now very different inside. The front door is in the same spot, framed by an original leaded light window, but is now protected by a sheltered courtyard and outdoor living space with a fireplace. The original flat ceilings have been replaced with sloping ceilings and the space is largely taken up by bedrooms / studios and a living room wrapped around a fireplace. The new two-story living and kitchen pavilion has the master bedroom and study above and is separated from the original chalet by a glazed link that demarcates the old and the new. Clearly contemporary, the house is still sympathetic in its scale, roof shape and details.

Exposed sites like this, with sunlight to the north and, perversely, views to the south, can be difficult to deal with. Architects Studio RTA responded to the challenge by creating a cluster of courses between pavilions that reconcile sunlight and views in a variety of different locations, and also provide shelter from the elements no matter which direction it is coming from. This design strategy gives the house plan a relaxed and elongated feel, and also allows the family to occupy the entire property. The house has four bedrooms and an office, and they are spread out throughout the house rather than being clustered in one place. The resulting privacy is especially welcome for a family member, a yoga teacher who uses the quiet and sunny studio – “a beautiful, serene room, the best in the house” – at the northeast end of the resort. home for his classes.

The interior of the upper floor. Picture:

Simon devitt

When an architect is given a great view of the harbor, it is always tempting to cover everything with an acre of glass without glass. This home, however, is traversed by well-placed windows that let in a balanced amount of light and allow for a variety of wells for viewing the outside world, while still keeping the interior from the eyes of neighbors. This feature is particularly evident in the slats or sloping louvers that hide the gables and the upper floor chamber. The slats filter the daylight and make the bedroom appear slightly layered – nestled atop a tower, not too exposed to the world even though it is surrounded by glass on three sides.

The shapes of the new pavilions are inspired by the character of the original chalet as well as the simple boathouses in the bay below. The crisp white walls and the gray zinc roof are a bit strained and the school uniform for me, although this is the North Shore, after all. But really, there is nothing pretentious here and the place has the “simple, elegant, classic” look that the owners requested in their brief to RTA.

One of the owners of the house is involved in the construction industry and chose RTA Studio because he believed they would do the most organized and professional job. Under the guidance of partners Richard Naish and Tim Melville, the young firm designed a number of homes, not in any particular style, but are probably best known for their commercial and educational work. Over the past six years, RTA Studio has gained a reputation for successful adaptive reuse of existing buildings in the suburbs of downtown Auckland. (One of these projects, the renovation and extension of an Edwardian commercial building in the West Lynn district of Auckland, received an NZIA New Zealand Award for Architecture in 2006).

The screens provide privacy while letting light through. Picture:

Simon devitt

The Torpedo Bay house took a few years of planning and construction, but because it was well thought out by clients and architects, there was little variation in the work, despite the flaws discovered in the house. origin, such as unreinforced concrete walls without footings. or other visible supports. The new house also benefits from a quality of equipment quite ahead of that of its predecessors, such as heating by ducts under the concrete slab on the floor, which ends in French oak parquet, and double glazing throughout. Glazing keeps the house warm, of course, but it also reduces the need for curtains, and the placement of windows ensures decent cross ventilation in the summer. The house is well suited to take advantage of the sea breezes that disturb the torpor of an Auckland February. Plenty of storage (where were things used to be in the past?), Large cupboards covering entire walls, a large wardrobe and a walk-in closet allow the doors to be closed in the event of domestic clutter.

With the multitude of constraints that architects must face today, especially in a “heritage” suburb like Devonport, it is pleasant to see that one can still obtain a good result on a difficult but spectacular site. In the end, successful architecture comes down to good design and adherence to certain old-fashioned architectural values, such as paying attention to the needs of the site and customers rather than passing fads. Meeting customer demands also means fighting for customers – finding ways to work within the rules and guidelines of the board, without being intimidated by them.

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Note: These are stories from our archives and as of the time of writing some details may have changed including names, staff of specific companies, registration status etc.


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