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Upper Moutere – A special piece of architecture – mesmerising, tranquil, ageless

From a personal perspective it is always pleasurable to connect with projects in wonderful settings, but to have the opportunity to be involved with a project in this extraordinary landscape was extremely special.

Set on an old orchard in the beautiful Tasman district, the site offers spectacular, uninterrupted views to Kina Beach and Golden Bay.

Siting and building

When first viewed the site was a still in the process of being cleared by the owner.

During the initial briefing, there was considerable arm waving including pointing to this bit of earth and that bit of hill but essentially I was provided with a detailed brief to design a house for a flat site, which was yet to be formed.

It was with considerable industry that the owner continued with the work until finally at about the time house construction commenced, there was a vast flat site ready to take it.

Firstly in clearing and reclaiming the land, then bulldozing much of the upper part of this North facing site to create and sculpt a large level building platform, the owners were involved every step of the way in response to their own vision and enterprise.

Together with the builder’s superb execution, much of how the design functions and ultimately works is a credit to their involvement.

The end result is a collaborative effort that has created a wonderful piece of architecture that to my eye is right and looks right in this wonderful setting.

Designing a sanctuary

Landscaping is a key feature of the design. The hills gently slope away from the house separating the house from the landscape. This provides a calmness and tranquillity that allows it to speak as a piece of architecture without competition from either the larger environment or the immediate landscape.

Central to the brief was that this house needed to be a retreat. Location, siting, the view, the architecture and the landscape all add to the ambience and ultimately: It is really a sanctuary.

Whether circulating the house from outside or inside, there is always something of this home and setting to experience You will pick up nuances of this material and light fitting, or that tile or paver, and receive a real sense of experiencing the architecture as you go.

In respect to the location of spaces, the house follows a traditional path of living spaces and guest spaces at ground level with the bedrooms at the upper level.

The main bedroom looks to the view, so you can lie in bed and look out across Golden Bay. Likewise the outdoor spa is set to take in a similar vista.

Although the location is essentially peaceful, cooler winds off the sea are a consideration during warmer months so it was important that the house could be used as a wind break to sheltered outdoor areas to the west and south.

A sweeping ground level patio featuring a laminated curved beam and large upper deck and ensure there is ample room to enjoy the outdoors away from the wind.

With garaging for eight cars, there is also ample room for vehicle and outdoor equipment storage. A pool house is a future project.

The exterior colour and Alexandra schist stonework plays on the unique Tasman light changing the look and feel of the house on the horizon according to the season and time of day.

Design features

  • Thermal mass has been achieved in the construction through extensive use of solid or light weight concrete. This has created a temperate internal climate.
  • The cladding is primarily plaster on lightweight concrete panels.
  • The cedar timber used in detailing was run by the builder Jason Inch on site.
  • Copper is also used quite extensively in the detailing and the roofing is a bituminous tile.
  • Much of the cedar was secret nailed so that no fixings are apparent. In respect to the soffits, this involved working within the eave (roof) cavity and nailing outwards from the inside.
  • As well as on the house, the expertly laid Alexandra schist stonework also features along much of the retaining wall to the driveway providing a welcoming sense of connection throughout the property.
  • Heating is mainly electric, including underfloor and there are auxiliary gas fire