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Timber Design Awards

Wharewaka House

The timber grillage provides a meticulously crafted and stunning architectural response as a rain screen façade

As well as providing the necessary accommodation, the house needed to mediate between two environmental contradictions.  The first contradiction is that of the holiday ‘escape’ located in a conventional suburban environment.  The second is a need for an outwardness of living and view aspect set against wildly contrasting climatic conditions including radical western sun penetration from the direction of the principal views.

The house responds to these two contradictions in two ways.  First the plan provides the primary social response by closing the building form to the adjacent suburb, and secondly opening only to free space – the lake, or appropriated space – the internal courtyard.  These two strategies are mediated via the external skin of the building.  This skin is made of a grillage of ex 70x40mm bandsawn vertical western red cedar battens.  Bracketed off the building skin on stainless steel frames, like a pelt, the battens provide a hermetic coat against the surrounding social and climatic environment.  Like a soft fortress the house presents a quiet closed for to its neighbours which defies interpretation or recognition, the result is that the building ‘hides in plain view’.

This timber grillage moderates between the lake panorama and the south western sun via four massive screens which closes this view but for an unremitting slot in this thick coat through which a relentless lake panorama is viewed.  The coarse imagery of this moderation is a deliberate response to the sub alpine conditions.  The machined cedar boards are directly inspired by the texture and tones of the vigorous local flora which at this altitude colours to deep textured reds.  The imagery of remoteness is further enhanced by the boundaryless planting of indigenous plants and shrubs.

The cedar is further employed in the large glazed doors where its light weight and stability are an advantage while its treatment with a penetrating wood oil allows the continuity of material to reduce visual clutter.  Door sills are jarra, chosen both for its durability and colour again.  The bulk of the house is timber framed construction with steel where extra large spans are required.


2008 Timber Design Awards: Winner, Cladding Building Envelope