Purotu – “Beautiful” – is a "bach" (holiday home) in New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds at the Bay of Many Coves.
Quite often at the start of the design process, after we have had a chance to talk to the client and experience the site for the first time, we ask ourselves: should we do anything to the existing site, or should the beautiful natural environment remain as it is?
At the Bay of Many Coves, one of the many Marlborough Sound jewels, our clients already had on the site quite an old cottage which was not in very good condition.
Overall the site actually combines two individual lots with a total area of 49,632 square feet, with the building platform elevated about 32 feet above the sea level, at the lower level of the hilly site. The lovely positioned cottage was a single-story two bedroom building with a simple weatherboard finish and pitched Colorsteel roof. The dwelling was nicely nestled into the surrounding native bush. The client very much loved it and it was a difficult decision to actually remove it from the site and design something new in its place. While it was an emotionally difficult decision, it was a logical, more sustainable and cost-effective solution, particularly with the knowledge of the remoteness of the site and the logistical requirements of any long-term maintenance.
Picton and Blenheim are the closest towns and the only practical way to reach the site is actually by boat, barge or by helicopter. Weather permitting it takes about 45 minutes to reach the site via boat. This was the main logistical complaint of the project.
Our Wellington and Brisbane studios have a tradition at the start of every project to spend some time with the clients, and if possible, to do so on the future site. There are many reasons for this; however, this tradition functions mainly to help us better understand the client’s needs, wants, preferences, requirements, and any special spots and views to visualize and experience the site's constraints including access, orientation, context, services, topography, and vegetation.
The design team had the amazing experience of spending one weekend with the clients on the future site in the old cottage. By talking, walking, eating, drinking, fishing, photographing, sketching, and measuring, we tried to live as the clients do to be as familiar as possible with the site and to try and understand our client's brief.
We officially started the project in July 2010. The client's brief was relatively simple, incorporating an open plan kitchen, dining, and living area with a fireplace (wood burner), and 3 double bedrooms — all with a good orientation and view. A separate studio/office area, laundry room with exterior shower, main bathroom, and a separate toilet is also included in this plan. The outdoor space had to be very functional and also needed to incorporate the existing spa, and an outdoor shower in the same space was also a requirement.
As is a standard requirement in all baches, the provision of extensive decking with outdoor seating all around the dwelling, and the ability of the BBQ to be used in a variety of locations depending on the need, was key. Decent storage underneath the front part of the building with simple access was another desire.
We confirmed that the current position of the existing cottage was the best. With this in mind we rotated the new building to capture an even better orientation and view. We also decided that by pushing the building back into the hill, the building would perform as a retaining wall to eliminate any possible erosion while giving us the opportunity to better situate the building into the site.
The solution was to stretch the building form along the existing contours to capture the amazing view and take full advantage of the very good position and northeast orientation. The front of the building is occupied with an extensive deck and acts as an extension from the open plan kitchen, dining, living area, and the 3 bedrooms. The back of house was dedicated for services, including a bathroom, separate toilet, and laundry. At the center — as a visual extension of living room — a studio with nearly full-height glass is oriented towards the calming native bush slope.
Through the building we created an internal gallery, with a continual curved timber wall starting at the front of the building and flowing up from the timber decking on one side, and finishing as a retaining wall on the other side of the building. This concept is extended almost 50 feet further, creating a very intimate private courtyard with outdoor seating, a spa, and an outdoor shower capturing the lovely sunsets at the back and the stunning view to the front.
Structurally, the bach is a single-story steel and timber-framed structure with skillion roofs, seated at the front on timber piles. Top quality thermal performances of the building are one of the imperatives in our designs and we incorporated all of this into the project.
Sustainability is recognizable through every step of the project. This includes the position and orientation of the building, usage of material and local resources, as much as possible nature protection, energy efficiency, and allocation for further future improvements (solar panels for hot water and power), and more.
The main material of this project is (with gray-tinted double glazing), Colorsteel metal roofing and wall cladding by New Zealand Steel, helping to emphasize simplicity and elegant, clear lines. The choice was a logical, easy, and a cost-effective solution for a low maintenance material which performs very well in a severe sea spray environment.
As per our studio MWA design, the kitchen, laundry, bathroom/toilet joinery, and studio furniture were manufactured from marine veneer plywood as the main cabinetry material with a clear lacquer finish. All exterior aluminum joinery was executed from Fletcher Aluminium Pacific Residential. For the best thermal performances we specified double glazing with exterior Viridian gray-tinted glass.
Tasmanian oak was the choice for all interior floors with a satin clear polyurethane finish to give a feeling of warmth to the interiors but with a light and natural appearance.
Long, curved walls (timber-framed) with vertical cedar battens in random order is one of the key features of this project. We took exterior, functional elements and used these as a spine through the interior.
Off-white is the predominant interior color for walls, ceilings, and interior doors.
In a very simple and calm horizontally orientated architectural composition, we decided that the living area was the accent. A higher roof brought further benefits to the overall design, such as bringing more light to the center of the space, providing better cross ventilation, and so on. With this approach we combined the living area and studio which provided a surprisingly inspirational view towards the back of the property up to the native bush.
The fireplace was very strategically positioned as the center of the building, so as the heart of the composition it is visible from most spaces. The distribution of heat is also more efficient, and visually it remains one of the key accents without compromising extraordinary views. During cold winter days, or spring and autumn cooler nights, it is the real heart of the bach for memorable stories about diving, fishing, hunting, and dreaming.