Rotokauri Hilltop House

Rotokauri, Hamilton

Sited on an idyllic vantage point overlooking Lake Rotokauri, this new home is clad in stained cedar, providing a warm and textured aesthetic. Hollow slatted-timber columns diffuse the sunlight to the inside of the house, and at night, the fa├žade becomes a radiant basket dispersing warm light across the landscape.

Completed 2008

NZIA Waikato Bay of Plenty Architecture Award 2009: Residential

NZ Timber Design Awards 2009 Residential

Located on a hilltop near Lake Rotokauri, this country house has wide reaching district views to Waikato pouwhenua landmarks; Te Aroha, Taupiri, the Hakarimata range, and Pirongia.  The property has been with the family from when the farmer was a teenager.  He and his wife have now retired from direct farmwork although they’re still associated with rural organisations and friendships.   Grandchildren and friends visit and stay.  Although modern, the home is in this social sense a rural farmhouse.  And the house has been strategically sited for the owner to survey the ‘goings on’ of the farm below. 

The home comprises two pavilions linked by a glass walkway with the courtyard space between making a landscaped garden. The living area and main bedroom are located in the central pavilion, with the secondary pavilion accommodating a farm office and bedrooms for the visiting family and friends. 

The primary form of the building sits square in the landscape, with a roof that covers both the main pavilion and a large outdoor entertaining area.  The interiors are arranged in a diagonal alignment below the roof, creating a series of sheltered triangular terraces that give each room distinct aspects to the surrounding views.

Cedar is used in a number of ways to give the exterior a textured aesthetic.  Timber shading devices diffuse sunlight.  Slatted cedar screens wrap around columns giving structural elements a sense of transparency, but also as ‘light baskets’ spilling light beams across the garden at night.  

Open plan living spaces also incorporate a series of screens and high level openings to create a sense of connection and transparency.  Glazed openings are used extensively and almost all of the rooms are connected visually to the landscape.  

At a constructional level, although the large spaces suggested a steel structure, the sustainability driver meant that we looked to a timber structure throughout, with substantial timber beams traversing the broader roof spans.  As with all our projects, the house and floor slab was insulated well above the requirements of the NZ Standards.

The committed fastidiousness of the builder, Greg McGovern Construction, in attention to the construction, the detail and the finishes, resulted in the project being deservedly conferred the House of the Year supreme Award by the National Masters Builders in 2010, winning also the BRANZ Sustainable House Award.  The commission also received a NZ Timber Design Award, and an NZIA Award.

The clients commented that ‘studying the landscape’ from their home is a perfect ending to a long, busy day. “The views change all the time.  Even if you just feel like sitting and doing nothing, you’ve those mesmerising views of nature at work.”

NZIA Waikato Bay of Plenty Architecture Award 2009 - Housing

Jury Citation

“Built on a grand scale overlooking Lake Rotokauri, this large country house spreads gracefully over the site, taking full advantage of the space available and the stunning views on all sides.  The bold form and sculptural simplicity of the building belies its intricate detail, an example of which is the way sunlight is diffused over the stained timber and glass facades.  Internally, innovative use of grooved timber panels and spotlights filter light across adjacent walls at night.”



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