Not every house gives away its secrets at first glance. Sometimes the architecture can deliberately hide what lies beyond to create a sense of intrigue. This house, for example, turns its back to the street – the front door is the single glazed aperture in a textural wall of dark charcoal-grey zinc. But beyond the entry, the house steps down the sloping site, exploding out to form a glass pavilion that opens up to the outdoors. Architect Matthew Fitzgerald of Ponting Fitzgerald says the site has right-of-ways on both sides, so privacy was a key consideration. So, too, was the owners' desire for a modern, minimalist style of architecture. One of the owners says they had seen a house by Ponting Fitzgerald that was a glass-walled pavilion, which the team described as an apartment with land.
"We liked the transparency and the idea that the walls of the boundary became the walls of the house, almost as though you were living in the garden."
With this in mind the design team came up with a split-level design that follows the natural contours of the land as much as possible, with landscaping forming the boundary walls.
"The house has three basic elements," says Fitzgerald. "There is a white box volume on top, which is reminiscent of a floating cloud – a light, almost ethereal element. The lower part of this box is wrapped by the dark charcoal zinc. This is another box-like volume that accommodates the entry and service areas, including the garage and laundry. The garage door is flush with the exterior so it effectively vanishes when closed, ensuring the house presents a strong front to the street. But the texture provided by the seamed zinc adds visual interest, as do the layered charcoal fibre-cement panels that clad the box beside the entry
"The third element is the living platform on the lower level – the floor extends out to form a large deck. Full-height glass walls in the living room mean the entire platform appears to slip out from under the cloud. We detailed the architecture to enhance this look, keeping the flooring, walls and glazing as seamless as possible, both inside and out." Fitzgerald also created a strong axis through the house, starting at the entry. The large pivoting front door is set within glazed panels that allow a glimpse of the light and space beyond, enhancing a sense of anticipation."The black walls and low ceiling height at this point compress the entry, so it is all the more dramatic to come into the house and have it open right up before you," says Fitzgerald.
Stairs that are the same width as the door lead down to the living area, and a soaring window of the same width. A dark, basalt-clad spine wall beside the stairs further accentuates the axis. This wall ends at the bottom of the stairs, but reappears further along the axis, where it forms an interior-exterior side wall.
With the textural basalt also wrapping the central core of the house, there is a strong sense of continuity – the black box extends inside. So, too, does the white volume, which drops down into the main circulation space, reinforcing the connection between inside and out."We wanted to retain the purity of the box form so it could be experienced inside the house," says Fitzgerald. "When you enter, you have a memory of the box on the outside and can connect the dots in your mind. It adds integrity and a sense of strength."
The architect says the split level makes for a very relaxed interior, with an easy flow between the living areas and the bedrooms on the upper level, within the "cloud".A freestanding charcoal wall helps to define the separate spaces within the overall living area, and provides a place to display art works from the owners' extensive collection. The wall also supports a cantilevered white credenza that echoes the floating form of the white box.In keeping with the idea of concealment, the kitchen, including the oven, refrigerator and pantry, is largely hidden behind a large bank of dark charcoal lacquered doors.
Paints and varnishes: Resene
Cladding: Zinc by Metal Design Solutions; cedar by Herman Pacific
Roofing: Auckland Waterproofing
Tiling and timber flooring: SpazioCasa
Fireplace: Landscape Element
Dining table top: White Jazz stone, sourced by Bradfords Interiors
Lounge furniture: Ligne Roset from Domo
Audiovisual systems and home automation: Warren Kennedy, Media Build Technologies
Kitchen cabinets: Lacquered
Sink: Form Design
Tapware: KWC from Franklins
Oven, cooktop and microwave: Electrolux
Refrigeration and dishwasher: Miele
Architect: Matthew Fitzgerald, with David
Ponting, Ponting Fitzgerald (Auckland)
Landscape designer: Philip Smith, O2 Landscapes
Pool builder: Pool Doctor
Kitchen manufacturer: Form Design
Lighting: Lumen Design
Underfloor heating system: SunFlow
Doors and windows: APL Architectural Intext
Door and window hardware: Halliday & Baillie; Chant Productions