Under Pohutukawa


Photographer: Patrick Reynolds


A beach house for a couple at Piha North

The site with which we were presented was extremely challenging in that it was 90% covered in mature pohutukawa trees, the site being a part of a continuous belt of forest that edges the road along the beachfront.

The circumstances not so much allowed but dictated a sensitive poetic response to a building that, in order to exist would require the destruction of a large number of mature trees.
To do this we looked to the trees themselves to give us the cues that we needed.

We separated the brief loosely into private and “public” components, giving us smaller individual masses with which to articulate the forms. The private functions of bedrooms and garage are housed in two towers which are construed as freshly sawn stumps of the trees that were removed. To allude to the bark of the stumps the skins of the towers are clad in black/brown stained rough sawn irregular battens. The interior spaces are then seen as carved out of the freshly cut wood, achieved by detailing all the wall/ceiling and cabinetry elements in the same light timber.

The public space connects the two towers and attempts to engage with the surrounding pohutukawa forest by defining a crossover space between the powerful natural environment and the built form. The plane of the roof form pins off the towers to engage with the continuous tree canopy, disintegrating from a rigid plane to a frayed edge which filters light in a similar way to the leaf canopy. The primary structure holding up the roof is a series of tree elements that allude to the trunks and branches of trees but are detailed in a rigorous geometric arrangement which suggests an ordering of nature as it enters and forms the building.

The height of the public space with its light glass division responds to the height of the surrounding trees, the roof plane is partially glass to allow the full extent of the trees to be felt as they lean over the building.
A walkway links the towers at the upper level allowing engagement with both the natural and man-made canopies.

Contractor: John Armstrong
Completed: December 2011
NZIA – Auckland Architecture Award 2011
HOME Magazine home of the year winner 2012
NZIA New Zealand Architecture award 2012
NZIA medal finalist 2012
NZ Wood Timber Design awards winner: residential architecture excellence 2012
WAN (World architecture News) house of the year 2012 finalist 2013

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