A Rural Study – Fielding House by Cheshire Architects
Te Arai, New Zealand

Photography Sam Harnett
Interior Design Cheshire Architects
Words Bronwyn Marshall
Landscape Boffa Miskell

Uniquely imagined before it was even assigned either a site or an owner, Cheshire Architects’ Fielding House is a study in rural residency amongst the undulating coastal dunes.

Sited amongst the sand dunes of Te Arai, Fielding House nudges into the side of its gently sloping terrain, anchored and outwardly embracing its expansive coastal views. Taking inspiration from a modernist sensibility in its long spanning approach to form and regular rhythm of large-scale glazing, the home allows for a considered immersion in place. Paving its own non-traditional path from the beginning, the home is the result of extensively studying the area and a grown fascination with how to approach an appropriate dwelling proposition. Describing the approach, Cheshire Architects’ founding principal Pip Cheshire says, “the project started as a sketch and render before we had site or owners. The images illustrated how one might build in the dunes to be as elegant and minimal an enclosure as possible, as an exploration of comfort and luxury.”

“The project started as a sketch and render before we had site or owners. The images illustrated how one might build in the dunes to be as elegant and minimal an enclosure as possible, as an exploration of comfort and luxury.”

Differing from the familiar timber clad coastal ‘bach’ structures seen dotted along the water’s edge throughout New Zealand, from its inception Fielding House was intended to heighten the experience of embracing nature, while respectfully co-existing with it. A notable tension was the focus. Pip explains, “I wanted it to be a clearing in the dunes fitted out to offer comfort and luxury consistent with the expectations of its US owners while being casual enough to offer a little hint of Aotearoa New Zealand’s informality while they were here on holiday at the beachside links.” Ensuring the orientation optimised its siting, he adds. “The house is organised around an open view to the links below and a wide horizon yet seeks to give each room a unique relationship with the seascape, the headland to the south, the offshore islands to the north and the enclosure of the forest to the west.”

As a further challenge to the way in which architecture engages with its context, the home is founded on a shared openness. “The house is thought of as mediating the transition from the wide openness of the beach and the deep enclosure of the pine forest,” Pip says. “There is no internal stair, and one needs to go outside and see the Southern Cross and smell the sea air to get to the lower-level suite. It’s a big landscape and I wasn’t too worried about minimising the impact of building there as long as we sat comfortably within the land.” As its own pavilion of sorts, a continuous ceiling connects the home in its entirety, with private areas separated by three conical forms that dramatically pierce through the volume, encasing the amenity of bathrooms and kitchen spaces.

“The house is thought of as mediating the transition from the wide openness of the beach and the deep enclosure of the pine forest.”

In its remoteness, the considered nature of the home is one that respects and listens to the conditions. Notably, Fielding House aims to passively engage with its site. In discussing the approach to sustainability, Pip says, “the building can easily be lived in without applying heat or cooling with cross ventilation achieved through banks of glazed louvres, double glazing and heavily insulated roof. The house is warmed by morning sun, sheltered from the greater part of the days heat by a large overhang in the north and the pine forest to the west. It is very efficient in planning ensuring every square metre is earning its keep and well-built of robust materials to ensure its investment of material and labour achieves a long life. The more easterly orientation allowed us to open a lot of glass to the horizon and pick-up morning light without too much heat while using the forest to the west to limit heat gain later in the afternoon.”

Fielding House beautifully combines a considered contemporary refinement with passive and integrated systems to allow a balanced synchronicity with site. From Cheshire Architects’ known empathetic approach, an enduring and open home emerges.

Published 15 April, 2021
Photography  Sam Harnett
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