Exploring Prospect and Refuge – Matakana House by Glamuzina Architects

Words by Rose Onans
Photography by Sam Hartnett

Inspired by the bucolic landscape of Matakana, north of Auckland, Glamuzina Architects’ Matakana House sits overlooking Sugarloaf Hill to the north, wetland to the west and farmland to the east and south.

Designed by Glamuzina Architects, in association with Pac Studio, the project responds to the prodigious natural beauty of the site that extends out in each direction. Whereas on an urban site, the front facade would typically take precedence, the Matakana House is at once holistic and rhythmic, with each elevation contributing to the whole, yet also displaying its own characteristics. Key to this approach is a sense for both depth and scale, which echo the corresponding qualities in the surrounding landscape.

Responding to the pastoral site, shifts between the conditions of deep and shallow are made across multiple scales of composition, and ideas of prospect and refuge are explored throughout the program.

Across multiple scales of the composition, the architecture explores the interplay between the conditions of deep and shallow. The façade, clad in timber with exposed timber battens providing texture and regular punctuation, shifts dynamically in interaction with planes of both glazing and masonry. At times, the battens become a screen – across the clerestory windows, or extending outwards in a continuation from the building, creating a sudden shift in depth where the mass of the building ends and the lines of sight extend through the screen to reach Sugarloaf Hill.

Internally, the program responds to ideas of both prospect and refuge. The surrounding landscape is an outward pull that the architecture recognises through the generous scale of the windows, whose steel frames enhance the rhythmic design language of the timber façade. Yet the building also creates places of retreat, that emphasise a physical connection with the earth on which it rests. A deep L-shaped plan construes the arrangement as a broken courtyard. Two wings of the house are split along an intersecting axis of corridors, opening to a large kitchen and living area.

The timber-and-board composition of the exterior constructs a rhythm, while the angles of the internal spaces interact with the site.

The pitch of the ceiling opens this space up to the outside environment, with high clerestory windows infusing light into the highest reaches of the space. A 1970s-inspired joinery unit recalls the timber batten screens of the exterior and effectively zones the space without dividing it. A ‘snug room’ adjacent to the living space is a marked contrast to the lightness and clarity of the main living area. Receding into the ground, the snug room is a dark and introverted refuge. Here too, though, timber shelving built into the wall echoes the board-and-batten composition of the facade, emphasising the architects’ commitment to the ideas explored throughout the design.

Through its attention to the dynamic tensions between seemingly opposing ideas – deep and shallow, prospect and refuge, light and dark – Matakana House is complex without being complicated. In a testament to Pac Studio’s focus on equilibrium, each element finds its equal and opposite counterpart, creating building that, while complex, is defined ultimately by its sense of balance.

The main living space is light filled, while in contrast the snug room is a deep and introverted refuge.