Water House


Photographer: Stephen Goodenough


An architect’s own house.
The architect, Richard, wanted a contemporary house with simple detailing, and his wife, Marion, wanted an informal beach house on the water. Combined, they have created a contemporary waterfront home that meets all of their requirements.
There is a narrow 7.5m frontage to the road and the site gets wider toward the water with the boundary actually in the Estuary.
Because of perceived potential flooding from the hills and sea-level rise, the council required that the floor level of the house be 1300mm above the ground. The architects complied with this, but disputed the extent of the flooding potential and won an MBIE Determination against the council’s requirement to place a hazard notice on the Title.
While this is a long, narrow house due to the site constraints, there are two distinct “cut-outs”; a service court combined with a third vehicle park and a central courtyard that is a sunny retreat from the prevailing Christchurch easterly wind.
The angled walls (in plan) throughout the house are inspired by the different boundary angles, and these change as the house progresses and opens up through the site to the water.
To get from one end of the house to the other a long corridor was required, and here the width has been increased to form a gallery that creates a journey, with two main openings affording different views along the way, and space for a sunny sitting area.
At the end of the gallery is an atrium space that turns a corner to reveal 180-degree water views from the kitchen, dining, and living area. One window is the largest double-glazed unit produced in Christchurch for a residence and meets the client’s requirement for a lack of mullions and transoms providing an undistracted view.
Marion’s love of water meant this needed to be the main focus of the house. This has been achieved. Even in her study, Richard has carefully framed a view across the courtyard and through the large glass windows of the living area out to the Estuary. Despite the water focus, there are still views up to the hills behind from well-placed windows.
Materials for the house have been selected to provide a seaside aesthetic, such as aqua glass tiles to the bathrooms that shimmer like paua shells, granite vanity tops with a tidal pattern, and floor tiles that look like a stony beach and a sandy beach respectively. Oak floors, stairs and joinery complete the light, informal look. Materials are durable for the seaside location, utilising colour-coated aluminium roofing, painted cedar vertical boards, powder-coated aluminium joinery, and stainless-steel fittings.
While a glass balustrade was obvious for the deck/pier because of its height above the water, Richard and Marion did not wish to have a balustrade to the sea at the lower level. A two-tier seawall was designed and constructed to provide acceptable safety from falling solutions, with an exposed aggregate face to the water.
A clean simple roofline has been achieved despite the two different first-floor levels.

Location: Redcliffs, Christchurch
Builder: Clive Barrington Construction
Engineer: Lewis Bradford

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