Embracing the View – Bay of Islands House by Herbst Architects
Herbst Architects’ Bay of Islands House is defined by the breathtaking views across the bay from which it takes its name. Set on a steep site, the house rests along a narrow contour of land, with two arms stretching out to embrace the view.
While the Bay of Islands, three hours’ drive from Auckland, is a popular holiday destination and, therefore, the site of many bachs used only on occasion, the brief for the Bay of Islands House sought a permanent home for a retired couple, and a place to which they could welcome their frequently-visiting extended family. The design replaced an existing house and represented the clients’ desire for a generous home that embraced both the unparalleled natural beauty and their active social and family life.
With the scale of the panoramic view having an almost overwhelming impact on the site, the architects sought to create a controlled experience on approach. Accessed via a private road, the house is sited so that the view is revealed only as one reaches the top of the driveway. The two arms of the structure extend out to either side, with the glazed entrance between them providing a direct visual link to the view beyond, which would otherwise be hidden by the length of the built form.
Above these two outstretched arms, the roof is lifted up like a gull’s wing, creating a sense that the structure is perched atop the ridge. Timber screens, utilised to provide sun protection, contribute to the visual roof-as-wing metaphor of the roof. Clerestory windows that separate the elevated roof plane from the bulk of the structure open the home up even further to the environment – not only to the view but to the lush vegetation that surrounds the home on three sides.
In contrast to these lightweight timber elements and the glazed entrance, heavy, white-painted masonry walls ground the home. These walls, curved where they end internally, also serve to provide important thermal mass and to lend the house an appropriate sense of permanence. White and natural waxed timber becomes the dominant palette both inside and out. New Zealand red beech is used extensively, as a ceiling lining and on the soffit, and is also found in the kitchen joinery. Selectively picked, rather than harvested, from sources on New Zealand’s South Island, red beech was chosen as a sustainable timber, while robust spotted gum is employed for the flooring and decking.
Backed by strong masonry walls and cocooned in the natural warmth of timber, a sense of protective enclosure enhances the experience of the expansive view. For the occupants, the Bay of Islands House provides a generous space that allows them to experience the ever-changing beauty of the bay from their home perched high above.