House of the week: Hawke's Bay

JILL WILD
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2013

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When Andrew McKenzie thought to build in the midst of his family apple orchard, the brief was quite simple - no gib, a view over the apple trees and a building with good acoustic qualities, befitting his musical requirements.

And who better to commission to design than good friends Cecile Bonnifait and William Giesen of Atelierworkshop, a pair who he knew understood his preferred style of living, and would create something unique.

The result is just that. It may be easily mistaken for an orchard shed from a distance, just as McKenzie had envisaged, but as you wind through the trees, the home rises above you. A simple, compact, and functional abode, elegant in its minimalist line and look.

The building is 80 square metres at ground level with an open design linking the living room, kitchen, bathroom and study. Poplar plywood is used on walls below 2.4 metres and joinery, and the walls above are Gaboon plywood.

McKenzie says the openness of the space makes it perfect for recording, with three of the four glass sliding doors opening the building to its peaceful and very private surrounds.

In winter the sun reaches to the depths of the interior, heating the concrete floor and providing passive solar gain. McKenzie has found in any one year there are only maybe three occasions when he needs to supplement with electrical heating.

The mezzanine rise houses the bedroom, which has stunning louvre windows. These are a hallmark of Atelierworkshop design, and McKenzie says they simply and effectively allow airflow in the heat of summer. The windows are used downstairs in the bathroom as well, ensuring movement of air throughout the building.

"The whole idea of the house was to be planted in the middle of the apple trees, and as the trees immediately around the house grow to full size the house will look, from a distance, as though it's popping out of the trees," McKenzie says.

The architects concur, saying the design is in the "mode of a shed" - fully open plan as a recording and rehearsing studio, as well as a living pod.

The build's style and quality was recognised by the NZIA with a residential architecture award. The jury citation calls it "disarmingly simple in form and execution" and says the modern bachelor pad proves that architecture is not dictated by budget.

THE DETAILS

Build Cost: under $300,000 (much closer to $200,000)

Architect: Bonnifait+Giesen

Joiner: Huib Pronk

Size: 80 sq.m.

Materials: Plywood, concrete, wide tray aluminium

Energy efficiency: Underfloor, roof and wall insulation, concrete floor for solar gain,double glazing.

Done Right: The design, I keep on appreciating how much better it is to have had professionals design the space, it is so good for living.

Done Wrong: There were a couple of mistakes in the building - the engineers got a beam wrong which means the down slats are at a different length from one wall to another. 

Recommend: Be on site as much as possible to keep your eye on things. The project is more likely to go easily if you're on site to deal with things as they come up and make decisions then and there.

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Next time: I would definitely use Atelierworkshop, despite the fact that one of my best school friends, Daniel Marshall, is an architect in Auckland.

However, next time I would think twice about  two storeys as that's where there is added expense. The high ceilings are a huge benefit acoustically. And the decision to have no gib is excellent. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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