Waimarama House | Herriot + Melhuish | Architecture

Shifting Tides - Strongly connected to the land and surrounding beachside - a prime example of the new beach house vernacular in New Zealand -

Herriot + Melhuish
have created a holiday home that's prepared to move, if the sands and tides shift against it.


Having recently picked up a New Zealand Architecture Award for 2008/9, this house exemplifies the latest in bach design. Not forgetting its heritage, the house uses traditional materials, in a befitting contemporary manner. Horizontal wethearbords, plywood and sheets of iron roofing were the mediums for many a handyman around coastal New Zealand, used to create simple holiday huts.

Today, the same materials have produced this modern wonder. A comfortable 4 bedroom home, with sheltered outdoor spaces and an upstairs retreat from entertaining for the owners.

Far from it's simple forebarers, this is a house where the living is easy. sheltered summer decks, outdoor showers, simple flow to the outside of the house and plenty of room for extra guests to camp out.

The client sought a family house on the beach, with four bedrooms plus studio and study. In this coastal setting, sun, views and habitable outdoor spaces alternately protected from and catching sun and wind were a priority.

Located close to the beach and fronting the Waimarama domain, the site is constrained both in size and by the need to relocate the house if required. Set against these constraints is a spectacularly open landscape - the edge between sea and hills, and a relaxed aesthetic of a small beach community.

Design Approach
The design approach combined a rational geometrical sensibility with a romantic attachment to the land and tradition. Hence a simple composition of two interlocking volumes: a white bedroom wing, loosely derived from the repetitious plan of 'shearers quarters', inserted into a double height 'timber 'crate'.

The forms are then extended, layered and truncated in response to site, views, sun and programme. The resultant north-facing courtyard not only leads to the front door but also provides outdoor family space – strongly connected to the house and sheltered from the afternoon sea breezes. Visual connection through the house and to the landscape was a key driver of the design. In the main bedroom upstairs, capturing the full drama of the sunrise and the expansive views from Cape Kidnappers to Bare Island were significant.

More than just a 'beach house', this is an all-year round dwelling.
However, the need to relocate the building if required ruled out concrete construction. Instead high levels of insulation, heat pump technology and solar panels on the roof, augment the large double glazed openings that capture sun and trap heat in winter, but cool through sea breezes in summer.

The composition of natural oiled cedar weatherboards, painted plywood and weathered zinc sheet both connects the house to the landscape and some older local traditions, but equally clearly sets it apart from a lot of the local built context. This is a house strongly connected to the land but prepared, if the sands and tides shift against it, to move.

Architect Herriot + Melhuish Architecture Ltd
Project team John Melhuish, Max Herriot, Oliver Markham
Contractor Mark Dawson
Photographer Paul Brimer
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