21 First Avenue is situated on a steeply sloping site above Onetangi Beach on Waiheke Island. The house is set over several levels that step vertically with the site’s contours and are carefully orientated to capture its expansive coastal views and northerly aspect. The folded angles of the house follow the topography of the site, nestling it into the hillside and protecting it from the prevailing south westerly winds.
A carefully planned arrival sequence creates a legible journey through the site and a dramatic moment of entry. The approach is from the bottom of the site, visitors move up and under the main volume of the house to an enclosed terrace before turning to arrive at the front door which reveals and frames the view of the beach and headland beyond.
The composition of the building offers a sensitive balance between openness and enclosure. Openings are thoughtfully designed to capture intimate views of the immediate surrounds as well as the broader views of coast and sea. Platforms project from the main volume to form balconies and terraces designed to be used at different times of the day and in varying climatic conditions. A sheltered courtyard on the southern side of the house captures morning sun while decks on the northern face provide sunny outdoor areas that overlook the beach below.
The brief for this holiday house was for a home that could accommodate many occupants, providing places to come together and socialise, as well as to retreat. The design splits the programme of the house across several levels. The lower levels provide garaging and accommodation for younger family and friends. The ‘core’ of the house with living, dining and the main bedroom is located on the second level. At the top of the site up a winding path sits a separate guest house building.
Successfully integrated into the landscape, the buildings are tucked into the hillside with existing trees and new landscaping providing shelter and reducing their visual impact. Their form and scale recall traditional baches of Waiheke and materials are sympathetic to the coastal condition, selected to weather and patina they will further harmonise over time with the surrounding environment.
Te Kāhui Whaihanga NZIA Auckland Architecture Award – Housing 2021