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A spectacular home on the Pakiri coastline sculpted from steel

Article by Home Magazine

It made its debut on Grand Designs NZ, and this new home by Paul Clarke named ‘The Crossing’, brings its owner surprising happiness

Abstract geometry house

The living areas open up to a terrace facing the ocean. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

You move to the country to get away from other people or bring other people to you: you build a fortress or a destination. Scott Lawrie, who lives alone with his dog Skip on the hills above Pakiri Beach, is firmly in the latter category. Lawrie, an outgoing Scotsman who lived in Sydney before moving to Auckland and building his new home, entertains regularly there, inviting friends old and new.

Scott Lawrie, kitchen, mezzanine, Brendan Huntley art

Homeowner Scott Lawrie in the kitchen. The island and mezzanine are clad in iron. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

“I think houses need to have people in them,” he says. “Houses have a soul. When a house has a good feeling, I always think that has to do with people, something to do with energy of people in the house, and history.”

winding road, hills above Pakiri, beachside community, north-Auckland, New Zealand

The winding road through the valleys to the hills above Pakiri. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

The house is named The Crossing, after the old cattle crossing track that sits behind the house (the track has been there since the 1890s). It occupies a modest site cut from the expansive farm that extends from the flats behind the beach over the surrounding hills. There are 16 subdivisions across 32 hectares; Lawrie’s is one of six that overlook Pakiri Beach, Little and Great Barrier Islands, and the Mokohinau Islands. The farmer who sold him the land told him the “cows didn’t need sea views”.

I’ve had a year of genuine happiness. I always thought I’d find it in another human being. And I didn’t. I found it in a place. I found it in a house

Lawrie says the ever-changing weather provides him with all the entertainment he needs. “I don’t have a TV here,” he says, qualifying that he has Apple TV only to watch movies. “And I thought it would be a bit hard, but I’ve never missed it. I sit and watch this. People always ask if I get bored, but there’s noise from wildlife and you watch weather fronts come in, you watch weather change. The colour of the sea, the whole thing changes in front of your eyes. It’s the world’s longest movie.”

Pakiri house, architecture

An original French-made Gyrofocus fireplace in the living area. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

To find the site, Lawrie, who travels frequently for work, drew a circle around the airport with a radius of an hour-and-a-half’s drive. Pakiri just made it. After buying the lot, he engaged the home’s architect, Paul Clarke of Studio2 Architects, and the two spent a year designing together.

Lawrie, who owns and operates a branding consultancy, briefed Clarke with a detailed PDF, adopting the processes he uses to enable companies to articulate their brand voices. “I ask: ‘What are the values of this entity? What does it really believe in? What’s the personality of this entity?’”

House

The palette is a simple trio: “Metal, timber, concrete. Done,” says Clarke. The coated copper exterior gives the wrapping roof a shed-like quality. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

The values Lawrie wanted for The Crossing were simplicity, integrity, quirkiness and “surprising but inevitable”. The personality traits he identified were: “Primordial”, “Invisibly Brilliant” and “Beautiful”. The brief reads in bold red letters: “How do you design a contemporary New Zealand home with a sense of belonging, but give it an old soul?”

Lawrie told Clarke to take him to a place he’s slightly uncomfortable with, to make him five percent nervous. He tells his clients that he should be making them nervous, because they’re doing something new. “If they come back and say, ‘That’s really nice Scott,’ then I’m not doing my job. It should be the same for Paul.”

home entry, ramp

When you arrive, the 148-square-metre house appears black and impenetrable Entering over a small concrete bridge and into a dark hallway with black walls and concrete floors, cut with slivers of LED lighting, you get a view to the ocean framed by the black walls. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

While many modern houses emphasise openness and flow, the bedrooms at The Crossing are closed and dark. People must sleep well here. A staircase – cut down the middle and shifted half a step so the stairs dictate which foot goes on which stair – leads to the mezzanine office, the view perfect for procrastination.

stairbase, steps, hallway, asymmetrical, lighting details

Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

To the east is the grand view. Sliding doors open the kitchen and sitting area to the patio and the lawn, which declines towards the hill, receding into a view of patchwork farmland, then the beach, the water and the islands.

coated copper exterier

Photograph by Simon Devitt.

From the lawn the house looks like an asymmetrical modernist church, minus the crucifix.
Irregular geometry architecture, asymmetrical

The islands in the distance influenced the building form – an origami-like geometry, with no parallel lines, no shape repeating. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

Lawrie says that his fear was that his modern house in the country wouldn’t integrate into the land, that it would be soulless. “A Maori friend said something really beautiful to me: ‘Living here,’ she said, ‘you’re looking at the sea, you’re looking at the mountains, you’re looking at the river and they’ve all been here before you. They’ve all been here for hundreds of thousands of years, and they’ll be here for hundreds of thousands of years after you.’ That’s really nice, to connect back into that sense of history.”

“It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life,” he says. “I’ve had a year of genuine happiness. I always thought I’d find it in another human being. And I didn’t. I found it in a place. I found it in a house.”

Gyrofocus fireplace, Charles and Ray Eames dining chairs

The sitting room has a large window facing south and frames the neighbouring valley as if it were a classic painting. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

 

Words by: Henry Oliver
Photography by: Simon Devitt

 

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