Architects: Matthew Gribben Architecture
Location: Piha, New Zealand
Team: Matthew Gribben, Keith Chen-Hao Lin, Felix Junker
Site Area: 906 sqm
Project Area: 160 sqm
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Patrick Reynolds
The Pohutukawa House stands at the coastal foreshore of a wild beach on a site almost overgrown with mature Pohutukawa trees.
The positions of the existing trees and their twisted limbs have been closely mapped and the house has been designed to occupy the residual space that the trees have left (beside and under the trees). The striking geometry of the house has been developed in direct response to the available residual space, while maintaining a maximum height profile that approximates the top of the tree canopy.
The interior volumes of the house take maximum advantage of the geometry to provide an intense relationship with the landscape, while framing projected views of the beach and the looming presence of Lion Rock. The capacity to project views throughout the ground floor living areas allows privacy for the inhabitants, without restriction on access to sun and or shelter from the trees, according to the season.
The material palette reinforces the reading of the house as a monolith directly shaped by the presence of the trees. The house has been designed to weather in the harsh marine environment; clear sealed colour impregnated Eternit panels (Fibre Cement Sheet) and matte black powdercoated aluminium windows, sliding door frames and flashings give a low reflective appearance in natural materials, standing in contrast to the texture of the Pohutukawa trunks and foliage, and readily receiving their shadows. The offset cladding panel grid extends the idea of a fluid mass/volume.
Interior materials reflect the informality of the beach house typology. The continuous dark stained timber floors are a practical acknowledgement of the irresistible presence of the west coast iron sand, with the same material used throughout for cabinetry. The organisation of the programme is a response to the multi-generational requirements of the clients, and has been developed to allow for comfortable habitation for groups from one to a few, or large numbers that belie the modest interior footprint of the house.