South by Southeast House on a Rock
Creative DirectorKen Powrie
House on a Rock
Defining the brief
The brief for the project sits within the reason for buying the site and why we as a family decided to make Christchurch our new home. The character of Sumner Community combined with the surrounding landscape provided a unique setting that we feel in love with and which we developed the brief around.
As a family we had developed a strong connection to the surrounding landscape from the sea to the hills. The brief was to develop a design that reflected that connection to the surrounding context and by doing so produce a new home that sat easily within the landscape. The unique ques derived of place were used to drive layout, materiality, and form. The key elements that drove our exploration are set out below.
• To capture the light quality & moments
unique to this site
• Material pallet, texture & colour driven
from the natural context
• Passive design
• Use of the existing volcanic rock
• Connected to the specific landscape,
views & community
• Create sheltered spaces by nestling into
the existing contours to provide shelter
and connection to the ground plane
• Creation of Internal and external spaces
that respond to the varying environmental
• Provide spaces were we as a family were
able to easily come together
Each of these elements needed to be addressed through the design response so that the end result sat comfortably within the environment while forming a warm open and inviting home to live in. These brief items were further refined under the following headings Family, Light quality, Rock, Unique ques, Views, Shelter, and Flow.
Family - Create a home where we as a family were able to easily come together both internally and externally. We enjoy spending time together
Light quality - To capture the light quality unique to this site through the considered use of material, form, edge and detail
Rock - The design needed to respond to and utilise the existing volcanic rock formations
Unique ques - The unique ques derived of place were used to drive layout, materiality, and form.
Views - The strong view lines to the Southern Ocean and Port hills needed to be carefully integrated
Shelter - Internal and external spaces to nestle into the existing contours to provide shelter and connection to the ground plane
Flow - The design was to acknowledge that the built form would be interacting and responding to the ever-shifting environmental identities of site.
Project site and context:
The site is located within the Port Hills which are a range of hills in Canterbury, New Zealand, so named because they lie between the city of Christchurch and its port at Lyttelton. They are an eroded remnant of the Lyttelton volcano, which erupted millions of years ag. Despite the heavy deforestation and clearance of native bush that took place during early settlement, a diverse range of wildlife and plant life populates the Port Hills. Native birds such as the Bellbird (Korimako or Koparara) Fantail, Silvereye, Grey warbler and Shining cuckoo are commonly found in the remaining bush.
Indigenous plant species such as Banks Peninsula Hebe inhabit rock crevices along with rare ferns. The more exposed hillsides are covered with silver tussock and other native grasses, unusually so for an area so close to urban development.
The site is North facing with a topography that has a 3m bank running up from the roadside to a natural plateau. There are prominent volcanic rock seams that run through the site. The Port Hills and the South Pacific Ocean are the dominate natural features. With views to out to the Bar (surf break) & back to Sumner Ridge.
The Prevailing winds NE / E which can quickly cool down a sunny day. With the Southwest proving the potential for a very strong wind coming over the ridge from Lyttleton. The colour palette of the site is unique with the volcanic rock, native grasses and ocean providing a strong place-based character.
Identify constraints & opportunities:
The sites natural setting provided both constraints and opportunities that directly drove the design brief and final outcome. The strong view lines to the Southern Ocean and Port hills needed to be carefully integrated. The extend of the volcanic rock seam running through the site was an unknown and something that needed to be dealt with once excavations started. This was one of the site constraints that we altered the design around to take advantage of the opportunity it provided.
As the site is exposed to the majority of wind directions the design needed to provide a variety of external areas orientated differently from each other to provide shelter from all wind directions while also capturing the sun through the day.
Each of these elements needed to be addressed through the design response so that the end result sat comfortably within the environment while forming a warm open and inviting home to live in.
Concept and creativity:
As noted above the design response was derived out of our family’s connection to the site. The form of the roof and deck are taken from the topography of the site were both horizontal and vertical relationships where taken into account to provide a building form that sweeps down to meet the landscape of the Port Hills while opening up to the north as it moved forward to Southern Ocean.
The three pods that shelter under the sweeping roof plane create framing points where views are orientated to the North (sea) and to the South (Ports Hills).
The sweeping roof form and the curved pods combine to create ‘sheltered’ and ‘open’ spaces to live amongst. The roof line comes up from the ground plane to the south to sail over the living pods and the open spaces that are created in between the pods provide an open central living area that connects to the views to the Southern Ocean and Port Hills.
The rear of the house sits into the landscape with the roof and deck hugging the existing volcanic rock seams to provide a series of different spaces to occupy. The eves provided by the roof provide very specific orientated shading to achieve passive solar gains.
All mediums used for design thinking were always referenced back to the key tenants set out in the brief. This lens was used to review sketches, models, visualisations, details, and discussions with the people making each of the elements.
Material selection for our house was discussed & debated at length and was an important design aspect for us. The different timber cladding used on soffits, walls, and deck were carefully chosen to work with the colours found within the surrounding landscape and to provide a sense of warmth, human scale and contrast within the spaces. The different timber selections also allowed us to play with textures & colours that changed with the play of light through the day and through the seasons creating surfaces with an inherent dynamic nature.
The recycled brick that we sourced was chosen to line the internal faces of the pods to create a sense of shelter and permanence while also giving a sense of a past history and reuse. The bricks accentuated the curves of the pods with the hand of crafts person embedded in the finish. The depth created in the wall cavity because of the internal brick also provided us with the opportunity to work with highly skilled joiners to craft deep timber reveals for the window and doors that created a strong sense of transition between spaces.
Innovation & collaboration
A key ingredient of the Innovation and creativity for this project was based around people and their passion. From brickwork, carpentry, internal joinery to the person driving the digger exposing the rock formations we looked for people that shared a love of their craft and that were passionate about what they do. This type of collaboration brought lots of different perspectives together that helped drive the design throughout the entire build process.
House on a Rock
Set on a hill with panoramic ocean views, this family home is comprised of three curved pods that create enclosures for bedrooms, bathrooms and garage spaces, with a large, open living space between. A floating deck wraps around the house, integrating it with an exposed rocky outcrop, and is sheltered by a hovering roof. Recycled brick linings intensify the sense of enclosure in the bedroom pods, while fully glazed walls create an expansive sense of openness of the living area. The generous curves of the building shelter outdoor living areas from prevailing winds.