New Zealand embodies island living. Bounded by continuous beaches and dramatic coastlines, the country holds powerful connections to its waterfronts. Located across the Tasman Sea from Australia, New Zealand features jagged fjords, towering mountains and active volcanic zones, striking elements that are connected by the South Pacific Ocean. While these varied landscapes are sparsely populated, cities like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are vibrant hubs with eclectic building styles and lively waterfront districts. As the fifth largest wholly island nation on earth, New Zealand boasts a unique residential design market that celebrates the nation’s remote coasts and scenic seafronts.
Building off our article on New Zealand’s cultural projects, this collection examines the nation’s coastal homes, or “baches,” and their individual architectural vocabulary. While the country’s holiday residences and beachfront bungalows are becoming increasingly common, these projects are anything but standard. Unlike traditional Māori house huts and the country’s historic British settlements, new projects embrace various cultural typologies and building traditions from around the world. These hybrid homes explore novel forms, materials and spaces while remaining intimately tied to their local contexts. Multicultural and intricately assembled, these beach houses are designed with both the environment and craftsmanship in mind. So sit back, relax and prepare to enjoy a tour of New Zealand’s incredible coastal homes.
This three-bedroom house was made among Pohutukawa trees and their extensive root systems. With a steeply sloped site composed primarily of volcanic rock, the house was carefully placed to take advantage of both daylight and views. The residence also takes advantage of a detailed envelope system that uses plywood cladding, cavity battens and an open-jointed cedar rainscreen.
The design of this studio retreat was inspired by the surrounding landscape and its changing texture, color and atmosphere. While the exterior appears rustic and weathered, the interior opens up with warm wood surfaces, a rippling roof plane and views out towards the bay.
The Owhanake Bay House was sited on an island outside Auckland. Below a ridge line at the head of a gully, the house engages views over the outer islands of the Hauraki Gulf. Made for accessibility and ease of movement, the project was broken into three narrow pavilions and “bends” to follow the site’s contours.
Zinc House overlooks the city harbor, expansive gardens and a public park. The design features straight lines flowing into curves and vice versa. Clad in vertically seamed zinc, the house was articulated with a regular rhythm to relate to its context and unify its forms.
Floating on a sloping site in the Port Hills, this coastal residence features a lava stone-clad blade wall, a generous deck and views across an estuary. Interior art galleries were combined with living quarters to frame views and define arrival points. Clad in Corten steel panels, the project’s façade buffets southern and easterly winds.
Eyrie was designed as two houses, each barely larger than four plywood sheets. The structures are located in an estuarine site, together created as a new vision for New Zealand’s coastal future. Made without doors, visitors must climb up boulders and drop in through a window.
This house design plays off the shed-like dwellings of a coastal surf community. Scaled to its surroundings, the project embraces variations in sun and wind exposure for seasonal living. Circulation helped define informal boundaries and control sand, while simple metal and plasterboard linings organized offset spaces.
Local Rock House was designed as a summer residence on Waiheke Island. Home to Auckland’s famous holiday houses, the site is located on a steep coastal escarpment above a beach. Using local pyrite stratum, the building assumes the form of a rocky mass arranged as a bridge.
This coastal residence builds upon an all-timber brand of kit-set houses known as Lockwood’s. The new building accommodates two families while enclosing a variety of outdoor living spaces. A small stream flows under the house and ties together the Pohutakawa trees, native bush-clad land and the beach.
Located on the crest of a seaside knoll, the Castle Rock House overlooks the coastline and a wet gully. The holiday residence was designed to challenge boundaries between nature and built form. Referencing the New Zealand “Kiwi bach,” the house manipulates traditional scale, materiality and form.