The judges’ travelogue: Day two – Hamilton, Raglan, Coromandel

17 March 2021

This week, we follow the Home of the Year 2021 judges as they embark on an ambitious architectural journey around New Zealand.

It’s when we end up right behind a lonesome cow frantically trotting ahead of our van that it dawns on me: we are now judging the Rural Home of the Year category. The needs here are different, the design expectations are often alien to us city slickers and someone is about to get in serious trouble for leaving the paddock gate open.

This morning has been punctuated by a low mist and a golden sunrise over the Waikato. There are hot air balloons rising sleepily as if they were bubbles from the nearby river, and from our window seat we see farmland and lifestyle blocks blending into one another. In some instances the transitions would be nearly seamless was it not for the architecture.

One is often weathered and dilapidated, functionality seemingly trumping anything that might be excessive or unnecessary – the other is a lot more varied. 

It is after we visit one of the latter that one of the judges raises the question of whether a bach should be slightly under-designed, a bit rough around the edges, or at least incorporating materials that are less ‘urban’ and more aligned with a traditional holiday pad.

Does designing the bach or the farm house ‘too much’ then tip it into a different design realm, or is the question just a ‘togs, togs, undies’ game of semantics driven in part by a desire to maintain a DIY tradition that has often valued practicality over aesthetics?

After a long journey, we arrive at a house where an autonomous lawnmower is doing its ghostly, haphazard rounds beside a swimming pool. I’m almost expecting the robot to offer me a Pimms but instead we are led by our hosts around an abode that toes the line between suburban mansion and rural retreat, between lifestyle symbol for young retirees and a repository for their small children’s memories. 

In the distance, between the Raglan surf and the undulating hills, there is one of those instant-suburbs being planted and watered and one can only hope similar design thought is being given to all those future homes. 

Hamilton to Raglan: 40kms

Raglan to Tairua: 185kms

Tairua to Whitianga: 40kms

Whitianga Airfield to Ardmore Airport: 166kms

Words Federico Monsalve

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