Geometric and Earthed – Desmond House by Warren and Mahoney
Responding to its enviable site while also complying with the Christchurch post-earthquake building requirements, Desmond House sits set back from the riverfront and offers itself as a befitting and dynamic home. Warren and Mahoney utilises a geometric approach, creating a home that closely hugs the earth and reflects an exploration of materiality.
Located in Christchurch’s Merivale, Desmond House is an experiment in post-natural disaster building that cleverly navigates the newly inherited building requirements with creativity and contextual purpose. Affronting its own riverbank, flooding as well as potential earth movement needed to be contemplated and designed for, while still creating a home that connected the clients to a sense of place, identity and the natural setting it is immersed within. The approach adopted sees a geometric and bold form come together on site, that hugs the earth tightly with a dynamism that allows the required movement as needed. Warren and Mahoney utilises an organic approach, looking to nature for resulting formal cues.
As the structure emerges on site, its formal composition aligns with the river it sits adjacent. The Merivale riverbank offers its own naturally occurring contours and linework as a guide for the resulting home, and the bold and experimental form acts as an extrusion of that. Home to adventurous clients, ensuring the physical manifestation of their values matched a spirit of sculptural play while also ensuring it was compliant with strict building regulations imposed a set of challenges. These challenges were also seen as opportunities to be somewhat experimental. With the home needing to be significantly clear of the existing ground, the foundations needed to be elevated, with added consideration of an existing copper beech tree and its significant root system. The result is a structure that sits in and around the natural and protected features.
A generous floor plan of 400sqm sees the two-level home as an expansive and calming abode. The substantial spacing internally creates an immediate sense of tranquillity, while the large floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors encourage contemplation of the surrounding natural setting. Hugging the earth, the spread of the home ensures it is anchored to its site, while allowing for the required earth movement for a building in an earthquake-prone area. Bringing a contrasting palette together, cool whites and greys offer a balance to the dark grey shell encasing the home, while timber adds both warmth and a connection to the natural.
Desmond House responds to its natural and organic site with its own adventurous spirit, expressed through bold geometries. Warren and Mahoney has created a sculptural offering, both relevant and enduring.