Ahikouka Weekend RetreatEdit profile
May 2008 World Architecture Festival: Project Citation A h i k o u k a W e e k e n d R e t r e a t This building is located on an old apple orchard in the rural district of the Wairarapa in the southern region of New Zealand’s North Island. It has been conceived as a series of apple boxes sitting lightly on the land for habitation. The intention was to reinterpret the New Zealand building tradition, the crafting of timber and the expression of structure, cladding, lining and joinery in a raw and unique way. The initial brief called for a holiday bach for an extended young family that reflected the owners’ love of the landscape and created a strong relationship between the built and natural environment. A sense of place was important to the client, not only within the landscape but also as a reflection of New Zealand architecture. The design relies on colonial influences but then extends these to create a contemporary and crafted dwelling that acts as a holiday retreat for the family’s busy lifestyle. The architecture should not dictate the holiday but enhance the experience. It should allow creative play to evolve but also enable rest and recuperation. The building consists of two simple boxes orientated on the primary axis of the site and linked by an external gallery. The boxes have been positioned on the site to maximise its visual expanse while using the eastern shelter belt to create a sense of enclosure. The structure of the boxes has a logical and coherent rhythm reminiscent of apple packing cases stacked and ready for transport. The building skin alludes to its internal functions, utilising transparency to the living zones and solidity to the private spaces. The entry is intentionally discrete and without presence, opening to a large interconnected open plan living area, positioned centrally to provide spaces where various family holiday functions can occur independently but remain connected. Bedroom spaces have been positioned at each end of the building and are more discrete to provide sheltered and restful areas, removed from the interactive living environment. Long slot windows have been positioned adjacent to bunk beds to provide individual control of view, sun and aspect. The living spaces open on both sides to the outside and the sun, a metaphorical tent or campsite, while the bunkrooms remain enclosed and cool. Treatment of the exterior facade has been sensitively handled to express the building’s origins. Vertical structural members support random horizontal boarding reflecting the old apple crates that were used on the early orchards. The unadorned natural timber, a sustainable renewable resource, provides a connection to nature and the natural, set to weather in its rural environment. The concept incorporates simple sustainable design principles of water collection, wetback water heating, waste management, double glazing and material selection. Beyond this facade the familiar icons of architecture give way to a dramatic use of light and space. The complimentary of solid and void in strong juxtaposition create a spatial dialogue in both two and three dimensions. The strong uncomplicated solid form with its inserted expanse of glass heightens the experience of the site giving the feeling of being close to the elements but protected from them at the same time, creating a sense of shelter in close connection with its environment and providing a setting that captures the essential spirit of the New Zealand holiday retreat.