Slight of Foot – Thornton-Hasegawa House by Bonnifait + Giesen Atelierworkshop
Brooklyn, Wellington, New Zealand
On a steep, challenging site, Thornton-Hasegawa House emerges as a square-shaped tower in Brooklyn, Wellington. Bonnifait + Giesen Atelierworkshop proposes a slight-footed structure that both touches the site lightly and fulfils its complex brief and modest budget.
The project is an experiment in the conquering of challenging sites. In an old area left undeveloped due to its topographical complexities, the site sits neighbour-less and with uninterrupted views. The study of building on such a site began not just at how the structure would anchor itself to its terrain but with the associated access issues and absence of services and infrastructure. Adding additional challenge and constraint was the project’s tight budget. Yet the resulting building hides the strata of challenges and sleepless nights posed by the design and stands light-footed and deceptively at ease.
The project is an experiment in the conquering of challenging sites.
Built by Murray and Nelson Constructions, the concept was born from a desire to create a low impact response to the site and sees a 50 square-metre lightweight tower structure resultingly emerge. The brief inspired a small, intelligently compact home that has a strong connection to the surrounding landscape. Key to the build was an equally modest budget, which saw the client perform some of the building tasks themselves instead of contracting out every element. The challenge was then to combine an efficient use of affordable, durable materials that then come together in a system that is also cost-effective. Elements such as the kitchen and built-in furniture was designed to be constructed and installed by the owners. The result is an open-planned home that utilises natural light from all aspects and is connected through its brightly coloured central stair.
Yet the resulting building hides the strata of challenges and sleepless nights posed by the design and stands light-footed and deceptively at ease.
As well as seeking to physically touch the earth lightly, the clients wanted to have an equally light impact on the environment in terms of emissions. Although initially a bare site, the allowance for connection to services was an evolution through the building process. The primary intent was to be completely off-grid, but this evolved into the allowance for the home to be off-grid in future. Solar panels are installed on the large north-facing sloped capitalising on the absence of surrounding overshadowing and capturing energy year-round. With large openings to all sides, the metal clad exterior is punctuated through a rhythmed pattern of large format glass, allowing access to views to the natural surrounds from each space internally.
Thornton-Hasegawa House is a balancing act between nature and built form, between grand plans and the deceptively modest result. Bonnifait + Giesen Atelierworkshop, through working closely with their impassioned client, has created a split-level home that beautifully (and lightly) overcomes its challenging site with ease.