Amazing Spaces' George Clarke gets a close look at the concrete dome beach house

TVNZ

Amazing Spaces takes us inside the dome house at Peka Peka beach, north of Wellington.

Does it take an Englishman to uncover some of our smaller architectural wonders?

It seems that way. Not that the Peka Peka beach house in this week's episode of Amazing Spaces is unknown, but it's probably fair to say it's an undiscovered gem for most Kiwis.

Which is what was intended of course. For this is a house that has been deliberately disguised as a hillock, to get around stringent planning regulations that ensure no house is visible from the beach in this area of "outstanding beauty".

There's a house hidden beneath this scrubby hillock, but you probably wouldn't know it.
BEN STRANG

There's a house hidden beneath this scrubby hillock, but you probably wouldn't know it.

Architect Fritz Eisenhofer designed and built the concrete house for his own family in the late 1980s, and it is as weird as it is wonderful. 

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For starters, there's that giant "insect's eye" in the hill – a window in the scrub-covered concrete dome. Then there's the lack of doors inside. Everything flows from one space to the other as the interior wraps around an organic-shaped indoor pool, creating a "tropical oasis". As George Clarke rightly points out, it could well be a James Bond villain's secret lair.

Amazing Spaces took the cameras through the house, which was described as a 'tropical oasis'.
BEN STRANG

Amazing Spaces took the cameras through the house, which was described as a 'tropical oasis'.

Just like the Crosson-designed bach in last week's episode, this house is all about simplicity. But back in the '80s, this truly was a design ahead of its time – "the ultimate in open-plan living". The house channels heat from the sun to a rock storage unit at the rear, which then radiates heat out into the space on cooler days. Hmm, we wonder if managing that greenery and humidity could get a bit tricky.

Five years ago, when interviewed about their house, Fritz and Helen Eisenhofer said people often wanted a fancy car to show off, but didn't like a home that was out of the ordinary.

"The big problem is that when it comes to houses, people are still thinking well inside the box, inside the square, where they should think in the circle," Helen Eisenhofer said. "You couldn't build this house today. There is no way you could get through the planning process, so this is all you will probably see like this."

There's almost as much greenery on the inside as the outside.
BEN STRANG

There's almost as much greenery on the inside as the outside.

In the meantime, we can look forward to more of Clarke's contagious enthusiasm for those out-of-the-ordinary projects, including a whacky concept of his own. This appears to be a rotating cube house with furniture from different rooms stuck to the walls and ceiling. If you want the bedroom, you just spin it round till the bedroom is on the bottom. Too bad about the food and that glass of water that may have been sitting on the dining room table, not to mention the lamp on the bedside table.

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Will be fun to see how this prototype works out, since the obstacles seem, well, pretty insurmountable.

Amazing Spaces screens on TVNZ 1 on Thursdays at 7.30pm.

 

 - Stuff

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