House of the week: Queenstown

Last updated 05:00 28/08/2013

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Yevrah Ornstein lives as high above ground as you can in New Zealand, 300 metres above Queenstown, sometimes in snow, more often in cloud and always within a tight community that values in peace and privacy.

For Ornstein it was a dream to build an eco-friendly home in a location he adores, farthest from his former life amidst the rush, heat and bother of California. And who better to commission than architect Roger Buck? He's known for his passion for eco-builds and has 30 years experience of both aesthetic and architectural excellence.

The home is big for one chap and his dog, but Ornstein wanted to accommodate friends, and he needed an office and a gym.

"It's really four bedrooms but I have commissioned two of those rooms for my needs, so it leaves me a master bedroom and two guest bedrooms."

The brief was simple: "An accent on eco friendly; to maximise privacy and views; I didn't want to be cold; I didn't want to live in a series of boxes, I wanted to do away with walls wherever possible, and I wanted to work in harmony with the topography, to achieve a low-impact build, so that as you approach much of the house is hidden from the initial view."

Ornstein said the outstanding thing about Roger Buck is that he listened and then conceived a design to fit precisely with what had been discussed both in terms of style and living.

"As I walk around the home there are so many elements that bridge to something I said or showed him or mentioned in my brief. The whole house is chock full of his response from listening to me, and how often do you get that?

"When you enter on the first landing you look up and see a floor above you and you walk down a few steps to the next level and there's a grand stairway that draws you in, it creates a sense of mystery and curiosity, the curve is an architectural masterpiece, it reaches the inner child in us all that wants to know what's down there, around the curve." 

Beyond the mystical and enchanting, this build is one massive heat sink. Constructed largely of concrete-filled poly-block, it gives off a radiant heat that results in a comfortable, ambient temperature virtually year-round. 

Architect Roger Buck says his considerations were threefold - to fit the descending topography and rocky situation; to design a build that is fun to live in and provides a pleasant living experience every day and to design an energy-efficient build.

The lower level is cantilevered, offering glimpses of the lake below. It's a home that Ornstein says has outstanding performance and merges into its surrounds through cedar cladding and use of local schist. An innovative concept thought up between the client and architect is the aluminium warm wall with perforations, fans and ducting: hot air is drawn in and ducted through the house from the warm wall heat-sink source. 

The kitchen with schist feature wall and black granite work-tops continues the curve theme, drawing the eye - and indeed guests - through to the adjoining dining area. The home is packed with the craftsmanship of local artisans, Lloyd Richardson's granite and jarrah kitchen and the carpentry by Tony Baker add to the overall design, which Ornstein says perfectly exemplifies the skills of architect Buck.

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Build Cost: Over $1 million 

House Size: 325 sq m, plus 50 sq m garaging, plus decks

Architect: Roger Buck, Buck Architects

Builder: Brian Hill & (master carpenter) Tony Baker

Materials: Polyblock, cedar, schist, butynol

Energy Efficiency: Concrete-filled polyblock walls, added insulation on the outside, curved roof with extra thick batts, double glazed PVC joinery 

Done Right: "Architecturally, this house is a work of art, technically and ecologically it's extremely creative. I'd describe the design as having a relaxed elegance: it's tailor-made to the site and environment. I'm proud to be its owner."

Done Wrong: "Roger once said that if he did this again he'd do a concrete roof that would provide even more thermal mass."

Unexpected: "Over the kitchen there is a vaulted alcove, and the unexpected thing is the way that this alcove intersects with the curved roof, how those two shapes interact, it's wonderful and very majestic, and a dramatic and impactful surprise. It's really, really special.

Also unexpected is how spacious the house is, I don't mean just large, because it is, but being spacious is different, it's an unexpected experience."

Recommend: "New Zealand homes are notoriously under-insulated so I'd recommend people pay attention to that. This house had abundant attention paid to insulation, it's extremely comfortable, even in the cold climate and it also has a real accent on energy efficiency.Next Time: I am building again, using the same architect but the next house is a passive solar design; we couldn't do that in this setting because it doesn't lend itself to this kind of specialised design."

- © Fairfax NZ News


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