by Nadezna SiganporiaNov 29, 2022
Sharp angles softened by curved balustrades, dark timber clad cubic forms punctuated by large windows, rising cantilevers, and floating decks opening to lush gardens on different levels – Hobson Bay House in Auckland, New Zealand, by Hamish Cameron Architecture is at once understated and dramatic. The residential architecture project sits on a challenging and nearly land-locked site and towers above a quiet cul-de-sac. The home is designed to take advantage of the surrounding views, with elevations overlooking the immediate valley to the east, featuring magnificent Pohutukawa trees as well as views over Hobson Bay and beyond.
Architect Hamish Cameron had to work with a rundown mid-century house located on a neglected, sloping, and overgrown 736 square-metre site near the edge of Hobson Bay in New Zealand. Yet, both the owners and the architect knew the site was brimming with potential. "The owners are empty nesters with an interest in sustainable design…With one owner being the daughter of an architect and with an appreciation of good design, the couple required comfortable, well-proportioned living spaces which would reflect their personality and incorporate their collection of mid-century furniture and much-loved objects," Cameron explains.
Cameron used the original location and elevation of the dilapidated structure to guide the new build and relate it to the varying garden levels. However, coming up with a new residential design that made the most of the topography and the surrounding views presented quite a few challenges. Since the site is located within a special character zone consisting of houses from different eras, Cameron realised the new build required special planning consents. "We wanted the massing of the new house to respect the neighbours and blend recessively into both the garden and the established surrounding vegetation which forms a backdrop," he continues.
The house is made up of a series of cubic forms with walkways, cantilevered decks, and patios extending on to the lush gardens. "Being keen gardeners, the owners were excited to take on the challenge of taming the overgrown property and creating a bush setting for their house that blended into this leafy neighbourhood close to the city centre. In order to maximise space for a lush garden, the new house was conceived in three stacked levels, roughly located over the footprint of the original house, with a single level guest wing extending at mid-level to the north-west," says the architect.
With the exterior façade clad in dark-stained Abodo shiplap weatherboards, the residential interiors feature warm timber construction and panelling, providing a sense of connection. The vertical theme continues on the exterior with timber architecture featured on the terrace, balustrading in the same material. Within the home, he created a series of open and private spaces that seamlessly connect through the triple level stairwell that runs from the basement entrance and garage to the first floor living spaces and guest bedroom wing, and ending on the top floor with the main bedroom.
"Strategically placed windows ensure privacy and frame views of the landscaped site, neighbouring gardens and Hobson Bay. Generous door openings allow seamless indoor-outdoor flow to elevated terraces on two sides of the house, capturing all day sun and linking directly to the multi-level garden," he says. The sophisticated interiors feature a palette of warm timber with the living, dining, and kitchen zones defined by Blackbutt flooring, cabinetry, and wall panelling in Gaboon plywood and ceilings in washed cedar. Complementing the warmth of the wood are accents of rich forest greens in paintwork, wall tiling, and upholstery in spaces like the den, guest bathroom, and scullery.
Cameron also paid special attention to sustainable architecture features within the home both in the material palette and design. "…the house is deliberately small in scale and built largely in sustainably grown timber framing. Locally processed Abodo weatherboards, trim and balustrading in a dark, recessive charcoal tone diminishes the presence of the house in its garden setting," he explains. A tiled, insulated concrete slab runs through the gallery leading to the guest wing, and provides thermal mass while an overhang was specially designed to allow sunlight to flood the space in winter yet be shaded in summer.
Other features like solar panels sufficient for all the house's electrical requirements with the excess going back to the grid, extensive cross ventilation, and passive design principles ensure a comfortable internal environment, supplemented with a log burner and single heat-pump allowing warm air to flow to all parts of the house. A stormwater collection tank is also located below one terrace for irrigation of the garden. Working within the constraints of the original site, Cameron employed innovative design solutions, a moody and warm material palette, a host of sustainable features and elements that future-proofed the home so the owners can comfortably occupy the house well into their old age. It's no wonder Hobson Bay House is a 2022 Auckland Architecture Awards winner.