The Light and the Dark

June 9 2021

This encampment of peaked pavilions in black and white is a modern interjection among the line-up of statehouses that populate this street in Auckland’s Hobson Bay. The owners, a family of five, had squeezed into the square-footprint dwelling that originally occupied the centre of the site for quite some time. They loved the location, but they craved more room to breathe and better use of the land.

To explore the potential of the long section that, at the rear, slopes up the valley, RTA Studio crafted a linear programme using five strong gabled forms staggered along a central spine. This gallery-like corridor filters between the buildings - a connector that brings in the light. It sets up a relationship where the spaces in-between, at the heart of the complex, become courtyards, sheltered from the elements and secluded from view.

Keeping the buildings single level, avoided any height-to-boundary issues and meant this project was sympathetic to the proportions of existing homes within the neighbourhood. Materials chosen for the roofing and some of the cladding similarly reflect this history.

At the entrance to the property, a pair of pavilions present a yin-and-yang face to the street; their shape is a crisp, simple outline – the type a child might draw. Board-and-batten cladding on the short ends of the forms has a contemporary yet nostalgic quality that slots into the streetscape: new but not out of stride.

On the long sides, RTA Studio chose bagged, plastered brick - a robust material that requires little maintenance and traverses the threshold to wrap around an internal fireplace. Timber too makes a play for the spotlight in a full-height front door that provides a generous welcome and in the cedar soffits of the central spine.

While the two front pavilions make up the living/kitchen and dining – and a secret garage - tucked in behind them are three more gabled forms that contain five bedrooms. These are a split-level up from the others, to follow the contour of the section. Two courtyards and a pool which runs parallel to the gallery passageway are sandwiched in between: triangular reflections of roofline are a geometric echo on the water’s surface.

Inside the home, the tallness of the cathedral ceilings makes the volumes feel spacious. But this is not your commonplace open-plan living: the architecture is together yet apart. Each pavilion has its own function and identity but a natural relationship with the others, and sliding doors and windows allow these spaces to be closed off or connected as the case requires.

The owners, now settled in their energy-efficient environment, enjoy a lifestyle that flows around the architecture (or is that vice versa?) Like family, this series of buildings that, with their dark and light palette, may present as opposing poles on the spectrum but clearly share the same design DNA.