TC3 quake rebuild house on show

MARY LOVELL-SMITH
Last updated 10:00 24/02/2013

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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A house being rebuilt in inner Christchurch is part of a homes and garden tour, so the owners are hoping the scaffolding comes down soon.

If it wasn't pressure enough having your new home, that you as an architect have designed, as one of the leading lights in a national house and garden tour, imagine the stress that five weeks out from the big day it is still a building site.

Surrounded by scaffolding, mountains of shrink-wrapped joinery, dangling wires, protruding pipes and acres of white paint, architect William Trengrove and his wife, Alison, however appear unfazed by it all.

"We've told the builders they have to be finished by February 28 as the carpet layer is booked for March 3," Alison says firmly.

According to industry sources, the average time it takes to build a house in New Zealand is 41 weeks. Building on the Trengroves began in June last year; by August when they appeared in a newspaper article as pin-ups for the rebuild - they were possibly the first post-quake building to start on TC3 land - they hoped to be able to move in by Christmas.

The couple are becoming old hands at such goings-on. When their two-storey, 1940s art-deco style home was irrevocably damaged by the February 2011 earthquake, they had just finished repairing the damage from the previous September's big quake. That struck within months of completing renovations after buying it five years earlier.

Rebuilding the house was a no-brainer for the couple who say they love living in the inner city. "Alison works at the hospital and my offices are in Oxford Tce," explains William.

They describe their home as a townhouse, "one we can lock up and leave for the weekend".

"Having lived on the site, we knew exactly what we wanted," William says, describing the house's style as "Trengrove".

"It's traditional, we wanted pitched roofs and eaves," Alison says. "With generous living areas, high ceilings downstairs."

Although the cladding looks like wooden weatherboards, it is Hardy linear cement boards. The windows have thermally broken aluminium window frames with wooden trims.

If the house is traditional, its foundations are not.

The 232sqm house sits on a 150mm concrete slab, on top of steel beams atop the 15m metal piles screwed deep into the earth. Normally, such piles are not visible but the Trengroves have kept a metre or so section, twisted like a screw. "It struck something, possibly a patch of gravel," William says.

While it is currently difficult to fully appreciate the downstairs interior, packed as it is with stacks of joinery waiting to be installed, the open-plan pantry, kitchen, dining and sitting rooms extend the length of the house. The windows in the east, north and west fill the expanses with light. Behind them sit the guest bedroom and bathroom, laundry, and the hall and staircase. Here, however, the planes and angles of the walls and ceiling, their proportions and the ways the light falls on these empty white spaces show William's skill as an architect. It is not a large house yet there is a generosity of design that makes it so appealing.

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Never more so, than upstairs. The master bedroom is of moderate proportions; its low ceiling and run of mid- height windows giving it a cottage-like ambience.

The demolition of a three- storey block of flats to the west has given the room an excellent and sunny view across the city.

Damaged in the February quake, the concrete building's demolition gave the couple - and the builders - some anxious moments.

"Parts of it broke the fence," Alison explains. "For a bit the builders thought it was going to hit our new house.

"The demolition was worse than the aftershocks," she laughs now.

The room next to the bedroom is a dressing room the size of an average small bedroom, and down the short hall is the bathroom, making the lavatory a pleasing distance from the bed. A study completes the rooms upstairs. A long cupboard reaches from the mid-staircase landing and runs under the southern eaves. "Great storage," nods Alison appreciatively.

With carpet, tiles, lighting, bathroom fittings, joinery, wallpaper on one wall of the main bedroom, curtains, wooden venetians - and William's joy - a bright red front door to go in, before the couple's furniture and possessions, the house will undoubtedly be even more splendid.

"The curtains are made . . . everything is all ready to go in," she assures.

The garden has considerably more work to be done on it. A deck must be built, lawn laid, vegetable beds installed. Goom Landscapes are taking care of this.

Alison has already planted a dozen or so Michaelia gracipe trees around the perimeter of the garden. "I saw them and liked them," she says.

Unlike the house, which has nothing of its predecessor incorporated into it, the 600sqm garden will have some of its former inhabitants returned. Alison dug up its old roses and took them to their temporary home where they await the shift back.

Alison says she also fought hard to retain the old grapevine wending along the back fence. She thinks it is almost as old as the original house.

 

HOUSE AND GARDEN TOUR

The Trengrove house is part of the NZ House and Garden Tours taking place in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch in March.

The Christchurch leg on March 22 features a range of properties from the very new to a 126-year-old mansion. The $65 tickets are available from ticketmaster.co.nz

- The Press

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