The Power of Restraint – Hahei House by Studio2 Architects
Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
Blessed with an unparalleled position on the dunes on the Coromandel Peninsula overlooking the ocean, Hahei House sees Studio2 Architects create a home whose primary focus is to respond with sensitivity to the site.
Peeping over the dune, the subtle cedar-clad forms harmonise with the natural environment. The wings of the house are positioned so as to inform the inhabitants’ experience of different aspects of the site, from the ever-changing views to the position of the sun. The careful siting of the building ensures that the house feels closer to a single than a double-storey structure, with rooms on each level maintaining a sense of connection to the land. The folded geometry of the roof, in turn, shapes the spaces within the first floor.
Arriving at the entry to the east, one moves through the building from ground level through timber-lined corridors up to the open living, kitchen and dining space where the awe-inspiring view stretches out as far as the eye can see. In recognition of the often harsh weather conditions, a series of operable screens mediate the relationship between the indoors and coastal environment, allowing the inhabitants to control the interaction with the outdoors. When the weather is ideal and the screens are open, expanses of glazing create an uninterrupted visual connection with the nearby ocean. A suspended, sculptural fireplace is the only exception, serving as a focal point that recalls the primal role of the hearth as a gathering place.
A deliberately limited material palette creates an atmosphere of simplicity, restraint and calm, complementing the captivating nature of the view outside. On the lower level, exposed-aggregate polished concrete flooring is reminiscent of the natural variation of sand on the nearby beach. With American oak lining the floor, ceiling and walls, and used for the kitchen joinery and banquette, the interior creates a cohesive experience free of distraction. The sheer abundance of timber leads to a sense of being gently cocooned in the material – an effect that is balanced by the prospect that leads the eye and attention outwards.
In the context of such singular natural beauty, the project is defined by its simplicity and sensitivity. The land on which the house rests does not only inform expected elements such as orientation, the position of openings and the siting of the building but is a guiding force felt in each and every design decision to create an integral sense of calm and clarity. Through this consciously pared-back restraint, Hahei House distils the experience of inhabiting a home so closely connected with the natural environment that has shaped its architectural form.