A walk through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful getaways

Houses Of Aotearoa

Design Newzealand
Words Andrew Patterson & Hey Vito
Photographs Simon Devitt

Andrew Patterson knew he wanted to design buildings from a young age. He knew as he sat sketching the sculptural roof of the meat works while on break from his summer job. Now he’s one New Zealand’s most respected architects. Houses of Aotearoa is a book showcasing some of Patterson’s most striking residential works in New Zealand. Fourteen houses often located in the most far reaching points along the Aotearoa coastline.

As the architect what is your responsibility in the building process?

Well, you are just kind of lumbered with the ultimate responsibility. At the end of the day, long after it’s built and paid for the building kind of stands apart. It doesn’t matter how many quantity surveyors you have on staff, it’s the architect who gets it inevitably. You can’t blame anybody. You can’t tie your sign on the building saying, “Oh, my client wanted it painted blue.” It was over budget or the builder didn’t build it properly. You can’t do any of that. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to take responsibility for the final result.

Many of the houses in this book are located in incredible places. These surrounds obviously influence your design?

Oh, hugely. I look at architecture as just assembled or modified landscapes for human occupation. I mean, you adjust the landscape to make it a better, more comfortable human place. Whether your building a shelter with sticks or a very sophisticated aluminum carbon fiber box, basically you’re doing the same thing. You’re reassembling the planet to an environment for human occupation.

I look at architecture as just assembled or modified landscapes for human occupation. Andrew Patterson
What’s important to you when you are designing a building?

I don’t think design ever rests on one sole aspect. If you looked at a design decision that you make and there is one problem that it solves it’s probably wrong. A design decision can be beautiful because it’s solving multiple issues at once. That’s what a concept does really. A concept takes a whole lot of things and solves them in a simple way. So I don’t think anything is more important than anything else.

Of course sustainability and longevity are important. As you get long in the tooth you realize how important it is. We build them for 25 years but as soon as you’ve been around for 25 years you realize what a stupid idea that is. I mean, you’ve just finish paying off the bank and if you had built it properly in the first place, you would have another hundred years of a free building.

Functionality is really important too, but we sort of make it functionally flexible and simple, because how people love change too. If you think of your average state house, they were built for a totally different morality and culture. Now, our house is centered around the kitchen and outdoor living. Victorians were completely compartmentalized. So you’ve got to make them beautiful in their own way.

Could tell us a little bit about that Parihoa House Project in Northland?

Well its located on a large farm and sits high above the sea, northwest facing. Its owned by a New Zealander who married a European and they live most of the year in Europe. They visit maybe twice a year. As the house was going to be empty for long periods we created a really simple farm building structure and it all shutters up. So if you are going away you don’t even have to move the newspapers or take the cushions in or anything. You just close these great big doors and it shuts the whole house, including all the terraces, everything. It shuts up like an oyster and you can come back in six months and everything is exactly the same.

In terms of materials it’s very woody. But I really like the monotone of it. It gives it space. We love doing timber buildings because they are really sustainable and their sequestered carbon is enormous. So you are actually doing something good.

Its quite mesmerizing to stay there. You get a lot of sea life, dolphins and killer whales playing right off the balcony. andrew patterson
Could you tell us about the Banks Peninsula Seascape Retreat?

Well, it’s a honeymoon cottage located in a lovely little cove along a 14 kilometer coastline. It faces the Antarctic weather so can be pretty full on. It was constructed from materials found on site and responds to two views. You’ve got the close up view of the bay and you’ve got the view of the coastline. The plan is quite complicated, but it’s just responding to those two view directions. Its quite mesmerizing to stay there. You get a lot of sea life, dolphins and killer whales playing right off the balcony. But I think it’s the sea that’s mesmerizing and the locations isolation. It’s just you for miles and miles.

I thought it interesting you ask your clients how they would like to feel when inside the building.

I don’t know about you, but the environment I live in has a lot to do with how happy I am. Its a really important dimension in people’s lives and influence on their mental and physical health and spirituality. If you are living in a place that you feel really good about, you are likely to be much happier.

A lot of these buildings feel like they make sense sitting in the landscape.

Our underlying philosophy is to get buildings to feel like extensions of human beings. If we can get the building feeling like it logically belongs in a place, then the people who use it are going to feel connected to that place •