Sumner salute

The 2024 Readers’ Choice Home of the Year | Sumner House by RTA Studio

As far as creative solutions to site restrictions go, this one by RTA Studio is borderline miraculous.

Located at the southern end of Sumner Beach in Christchurch, the site is a skinny triangular affair wedged between the roaring sea, the Sumner Scarborough Clock Tower, and, to the rear, some impressive hills scarred by erosion and likely the tectonic shifts so common in the area.

The solution to this compact wedge was to take a standard, single-gabled form, slice it at its apex, and rearrange the two resulting slices — like egalitarian pieces of coastal cake — in ways that best utilise the space.

Each pavilion is given its own programme (living vs sleeping). From the inside, the house feels as if the two volumes intersect and come apart at different points, their convergence creating triangular shapes and balconies, vantage points to see downstairs, and even tiny, unusable spaces that add asymmetry and sculpture that are as delightful as they are tension inducing.

RTA has done this in the past — both the jumping at sites so difficult that no other designer would even wave a pencil at them (for example, Buckletons Bach) and the responding with a clarity of thought that makes one think the solution was blatantly obvious all along (the Vineyard and E-type houses).

The perfectly complementary swimming pool and art studio at the back are little cherries on top of this gâteaux, as if to accentuate the point that a little extra flair is possible despite the excess of limitations. An absolute beauty!

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