House Of The Week
The White family's 'tent city' in the Marlborough Sounds focuses on the idea of transporting the experience of camping into a cluster of permanent structures.
The family's connection to Ruakaka Bay dates back nearly one hundred years and four generations. Wanting to ensure generations to come could share the family's cherished Sounds experience, the family decided to build on their land, commissioning Melling:Morse to design.
"We'd seen a couple of the Melling:Morse designs in a magazine and really liked them," says son Henry.
Over four summers and one winter Henry, with the help of family and friends, built the three structures around a central courtyard. The project had challenges of momentous proportions, starting in Plimmerton where Henry, cousin Matt, a 5.5 metre boat packed with a chest of drawers, clothes and tools, set sail for Ruakaka Bay to start the project.
The first night on site was spent on the foreshore, camping, until a couple of corrugated sheds were built for temporary living and cooking and a pair of wooden platforms were built with canvas overhead for sleeping.
As Henry says, nothing in the design was average or normal. The living pavilion is 10 metres by 4.5 metres, the ablution laundry structure 2.7 metres square, the sleeping tent (master bedroom) with en suite, 3.6 metres square, all built around the central and carefully-constructed concrete tile courtyard.
The courtyard alone was a hugely challenging construction, on each of the two-day-long pours, three concrete trucks were barged into the bay, 100 metres of pipeline, 50 metres through the sea, the rest climbing the steep hill to the construction site. The first pour in the heat of the Sounds summer saw Henry rushing along the pipleline, sledgehammer in hand, beating the line to keep the concrete flowing.
The second pour was in torrential rain, and had Henry clad in a wetsuit, rushing to cover the new concrete with tarpaulins to prevent it being washed out.
Constant construction pals were the family dogs Jimmy and Shia, as well as a friendly pig. When Henry and Shia went to sea in the boat, Jimmy the pure-bred cocker spaniel would sit on the shoreline awaiting their return, accompanied by the pig sitting alongside.
Mother Rosie says the sight was hilarious. "Jimmy thought he was better than a pig, after all, " she says, "he was pure-bred and from the city, so he'd move off away from the pig to distance himself, Pig Pig, as he was affectionately called, would follow, much to Jimmy's annoyance."
Architect Allan Morse says the build was well crafted by Henry, and has been lovingly built. Experts concur, after perusing the standard of workmanship and build, authorities signed Henry White off as a qualified builder. Morse goes one step further and says he is a real craftsman, confiding that the design was difficult.
Size: 100 sq.m
Cost: Under $1 million
Materials: Timber, aluminium-framed double-glazed glass, timber posts, plywood, concrete, Equus Dexx membrane roofing.
Energy Efficiency: Insulation underfloor, walls, ceiling, double glazing, solid fuel fire with wetback, photo voltaic cells plus back-up generator.
Done Right: The craftsmanship of the building, it's like a piece of joinery and beautifully built. And the way you see through the build to the sea from any angle, the result of wonderful design work.
Done Wrong: Technically it was so complicated, if we'd known how difficult it would be to build we might have rethought, but thank goodness we didn't.
Unexpected: How beautifully it sits on the land and how beautifully it was designed in terms of the land, and yet the architects never visited the site until its was built. And their planning, there wasn't a square foot of soil left over that wasn't needed somewhere. Finally, how the project has united the family and brought everyone together, kids who had grown up and gone their individual ways all pitched in over the build.
Recommend: Build a house on the side of a road with electricity.
Next Time: There will be a next time because we're doing another building, the final structure, but we wont do concrete piles, we'll do pile-driven wooden foundations.
- © Fairfax NZ News