Whare Koa

Photography: Simon Devitt


Opahi Bay has been the McGreal family holiday destination since the early 1950s when Ray McGreal built the original fibrolite family bach and tennis court on the eastward sloping site towards the idyllic bay. Whare Koa, the new house of Ray’s youngest daughter and her family required a sensitive and thoughtful approach to a unique and special place, filled with memories and family history.

The home had to accommodate a very active and gregarious live-work lifestyle and see them into retirement. Having been involved with the community for over fifty years, the brief for the family’s new house was beyond the normal requirements of a contemporary three-bedroom home. The family’s new house was to become part home, part workshop/studio and part community facility to accommodate weekly tennis games and community meetings etc.

The floor plan is “T” shaped, with the head anchored to the low part of the site, directly atop the footprint of the old bach, accommodating two east facing bedrooms and the art studio with the main living spaces and kitchen above – all oriented towards the view. An open atrium occupies the space between this living wing and the workshop with master suite above with views beyond via the glazed roof and clerestory.

The atrium is a multi functioning space from which the home is entered, its transparency breaks down the bulk & scale of the building. Floor levels respond to the sloping site and are linked with a connecting glazed stair gallery, reminiscent of the original path connecting the old bach to the shared tennis court along the north face of the building. The head of the stair opens to a pavilion-like room with a double height-pivoting door that opens to the west providing links with the community and extended family located next door.

NZIA Awards Jury Citation: This easy, loose-fitting social hub for the community utilises a rich material palette on a difficult south-facing site with a clear organisational schema across three levels. Built-in furnishings and interior fittings that are rich with ingenious technical solutions blur the interior and exterior space throughout the house.

NZIA Local Award Winner – 2018 – Housing

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