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Queenstown House by Michael Wyatt Architects

This striking home has been designed to utilise the thermal properties of concrete floors and block walls, incorporating a honed floor featuring Peter Fell colour.

Michael Wyatt says: "The honed concrete block walls and polished concrete flooring extend from the inside to the outside, breaking down the separation between the two areas. Using the same material leads the eye out, making for a seamless connection."


Text supplied by Trends - for more pictures visit the Trends website.

Many regions develop an architectural vernacular over time - one that fits with both the landscape and local body regulations. In Central Otago, the prevailing architecture in recent years has been a modern version of traditional forms. For the owners of this house, however, a different approach was called for - they didn't want a home with the customary 30° pitched roof, exposed timber, schist and grey-plastered walls, says architect Michael Wyatt. "The owners wanted a less conventional house, a design that would be interesting yet contemporary."

As the sloping hill site overlooks the Shotover River and Coronet Peak, maximising the spectacular view was paramount. Consequently, Wyatt designed a long, low house featuring a honed concrete block and cedar batten exterior. Floor-to-ceiling windows on the northern side overlook the braided river. Similarly, large windows in the guest rooms face east and west to provide framed views of other key landscape features. "In contrast, the south side is effectively closed off by the concrete block wall," says the architect. "But even this wall incorporates high windows that allow a 360° view of the mountains and sky."

These windows are also designed to enhance the roof, which has a sweeping, inverted wing shape. "The roof is supported by narrow steel struts, so it appears to hover above the house, completely separated from the walls," says Wyatt. "We deliberately gave it a very light feel, rather like a cloud." The roof, which comprises flat elements as well as three wing-shaped forms, extends from the house to provide shade in the summer. The overhang is greater on the western side to help reduce solar gain in the late afternoon. The break between the two roofs above the main living area allows sunlight to penetrate a sheltered terrace.

As with all the outdoor decks, this terrace is a concrete slab that appears to float half a metre above the ground. The effect is enhanced by the absence of balustrades. The terrace is stepped down to a pathway that meanders down the hill to a hot tub perched on a rock promontory high above the river. Providing a strong visual connection with the outdoors also determined the layout of the interior, says Wyatt. "It was important to convey the sense that you are living in the landscape, not separated from it," he says. "The simple, raw palette of materials helps achieve this. The honed concrete block walls and polished concrete flooring extend from the inside to the outside, breaking down the separation between the two areas. Using the same material leads the eye out, making for a seamless connection."

The open-plan living area occupies the main volume of the house, and opens to terraces on three sides. The kitchen features freestanding cabinetry designed as a module that sits within the open space. "The cabinetry can be opened to provide additional work space - it includes a second sink and benchtop," says Wyatt. "But when closed it becomes a sculptural form - one that doesn't compromise the spatial quality of the sweeping roof." The kitchen module also works as a space divider, and provides a little privacy, blocking the view of the living area from the entrance.

A second living area or media room, which Wyatt calls the snug, is positioned off the main living room, facing west. This room is designed as a cosy space to be used on days when the weather closes in ? it is less exposed to the sleet and hail, he says. The master suite is located at the opposite end of the house to the living area, and has its own sweeping roof. Both the bedroom and the corner shower overlook the river. The bedroom also opens to the central terrace. The two guest bedrooms are accommodated in a separate wing on the other side of a double garage.

Wyatt says the house is fully insulated against the region's weather extremes.

As well as double glazing, there is insulation between the two layers of concrete block - with a thicker layer of blocks on the inside providing additional heat retention. The concrete block walls and flooring also have thermal benefits. In winter, they store the solar heat by day and release it at night to create a warmer interior. In addition, thermal curtains help to keep the house cosy all year round.

Text supplied by Trends and for more pictures visit the Trends website.

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