Architect Aaron Paterson discusses his dynamic courtyard home

Nestled amongst Victorian villas in a leafy Grey Lynn street is a home that hunkers into the earth whilst rising up to seek the light. Aaron Paterson discusses his dynamic design

Q&A with Aaron Paterson of Paterson Architecture Collective

With a sensible budget, how did you balance drama with cost?
When we approach a design it’s important to make sure there are moments of delight that fit within budget. In this project it was about being clever with the material choices and focusing on simple formal gestures that had big impact. I think every project has the opportunity to be special, no matter what the budget is. It’s up to the architect to find those moments in the design.

Do design-savvy clients make the job easier or harder?
A lot of our clients are either designers or within the creative industries. We enjoy that because the design of the house becomes a collaboration where ideas flow free and fast. Knowledge of the design process sometimes helps, but it’s really the trust our clients put in us that allows us to create unusual or unexpected projects.

The area’s recently been rezoned for greater intensification. How does the design deal with that possibility?
Designing for intensification requires careful consideration of privacy and connection of the house to the neighbourhood. It’s not just about density in Auckland, it’s about making better neighbourhoods that are great to live in. We focus on how we can create a balance between neighbourly engagement and privacy. This house is a good neighbour, it doesn’t hide behind a fence or garage. A living-room verandah connects the house to the street and the front yard is full of native planting which adds to the streetscape. The internal courtyard affords privacy and connection to nature, while the roof deck gives expansive views to the volcanic cones, stitching the project to the wider environment. It’s important that our projects acknowledge their wider context.

You turned an overland flow path into a ‘swale’ instead of a buried culvert. Aside from being cheaper, what’s the advantage?
Working with waterflows can be challenging, but it allows a different connection to nature and it can create some exciting moments in landscape design. We worked with Xanthe White and she created a design for the swale that didn’t just reinstate the ground following the disruption of the building process, but improved it. It’s a solution that reduces the retaining on the site, increases the connection of the residents to the ecosystem and, just as importantly, creates something beautiful.


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