Urban Retreat

Located on the fringe of Johnston Hill Scenic Reserve in Karori, this Wellington home looks to turn its back on its suburban location with emphasis on family and privacy in connection with its bush clad environment.

The original house was a collection of multiple alterations spanning over the life of the property. Spaces were small and poorly connected, both internally and to the exterior.

The brief called for a design that would accommodate the owner's busy lives for the next 30 years, including three active teenagers and two dogs. It had to make the best use of the environmental aspects of the the site including sun, shelter and privacy, while establishing a better connection with its bush surroundings.

The alterations were designed as a composition of solid and void, as a reflection of past and present. The more traditional and solid language of the two storey form is a reflection of the buildings 1950’s origins and is complimented by two contemporary single storey wings that act to embrace the garden and connect the house to its site. The use of materials is simple but deliberate, chosen to reflect the building’s origins, its form and the nature of the site. We were conscious the architecture should not dominate or dictate the landscape, but rather enhance it.

The result is a home that is designed to be lived in by a family in an informal and relaxed manner with clear delineation of public and private spaces, where rooms interconnect effortlessly encouraging integration, or can be separated to respond to the varied activities that will inevitably occur. Transparency and large decks provide a strong visual and physical connection to the outdoor living spaces and wider context.

The uncomplicated forms with its expanse of glazing heightens the experience of the site giving the feeling of being close to the elements but also protected from them at the same time, creating a sense of shelter in close connection with its environment.