Harsh weather conditions and the owner’s desire for a stripped back aesthetic inspired the design of this Hawke’s Bay bach. Architect Gerald Parsonson discusses how the house was influenced by Greek style buildings
The design of this bach was surprisingly inspired by Greek village homes
How did you manage building on the ‘slippy’ land?
Matt and Adie have planted many trees, particularly uphill. A small retaining wall surrounding the west pergola/deck area was built uphill of the house with piles dug through the softer upper layers down into solid ground. Similarly, the house piles are taken through to solid ground.
You first visited a decade or so ago – how did the design evolve over the years?
Early ideas of two-storied, Greek-inspired white plastered boxes were floated around. Many years passed, then we looked at a low-slung single-storey version that was more spread out and hunkered down, but having all the bedrooms downstairs seemed to interrupt the flow from living spaces to the outdoor spaces. Then we presented the simpler two-storied box form, which we were all much more excited about. It allowed both living and bedroom levels to connect outside in many directions while still being a very simple structure.
There’s a subtle Greek influence in the house, how does that manifest?
The references are not hugely obvious, but there is a simple directness of the form and material similar to Greek village buildings. Windows and doors are not made using expansive areas of glass, but of more traditional proportions. There’s a lot of built-in furniture which is relatively basic, showing a little playfulness and how it was built.
Why are covered, sheltered areas so important on the coast?
The southern Hawke’s Bay coast can be wild and stormy, but also hot and dry. The covered outside area faces east, is partly surrounded by the house on three sides and is protected from the wind by established planting. It’s used as an outside living room, for enjoying the morning sun, cooking and sitting around a brazier at night. In coastal settings, outdoor spaces are just as important as indoor spaces – they add to the enjoyment and functionality of a house.
The painted timber battening in the house shares commonalities with other projects. What’s the appeal?
I have heard people say that architects can’t design true baches. Using painted cement sheet and painted battened walls inside and out is a way to connect with the spirit of those old baches. It is a way of introducing simple detail and rhythm to spaces as opposed to areas of flat Gib board. This opens up multitudes of different ways to express walls, depending on batten spacing, size, profile and colour.
Words by: Simon Farrell-Green. Photography by: Paul McCredie.