Four-level modern steel and glass home embraces its mountain and lakeside setting

Biophilia is defined as the connection humans have with the nature world – this Queenstown home reflects that by appealing to four of the five senses

​​​​​​​A transparent picture of glass walls and slender architecture, home, house, lake, landscape, mountain, Gary Todd Architecture
​​​​​​​A transparent picture of glass walls and slender structural steel elements, this Queenstown home looks ready for a warm summer. However, with triple glazed, argon gas-filled windows and doors that push the limits of glass efficiency, it’s ready for all the climate variables that mountain living brings. The concrete box to the right is the home sauna, accessed from the second-floor master suite and hall. In a home where nothing is ordinary, glass tubes in the concrete walls create lighting when the sauna is in use. Rock excavated for terraced levels was reused for gardens around the house and in the pools.

Often mountain homes are connected to their setting simply by being constructed with local materials. However, this modern residence  – with alpine and lake views to the front and forest and stream outlooks to the rear – takes a more immersive approach.

Architect Gary Todd says he wanted this to be a sensory biophilic residence – essentially, a house designed to evoke its environment through the senses of sight, sound, smell and even touch.

Nestled on a modest, sloping site, the four-tiered concrete, steel and glass home has a clean-lined architectural presence. Cantilevered decks reach out to the scenery front and back, while solid and louvred walls provide privacy from the street below and from neighbours. However, seen front on, the extensive glazing gives the four-level home a transparent quality.

​​​​​​​Sculptural pendants over the dining table reflect the interior design, pendants, Gary Todd Architecture, kitchen
​​​​​​​Sculptural pendants over the dining table reflect the sprawling third-floor living zone in this mountain residence. The powder room door to the left has no handle, a minimalist touch seen right through the home. Instead, doors are push-to-open with only tiny occupancy indicators on show.

Level 1 comprises the entry, stair and lift access, garage, laundry, gym and guest room; level 2 has three bedrooms, an office and movie room and connects to a outdoor spa and sauna; while level 3 is the sprawling open-plan, indoor-outdoor living zone.

Lastly, the home’s glass lift accesses the top-floor entertaining zone, complete with its all-weather seating/dining, teppanyaki island, lush plantings and 360° views.

Visitors appreciate the setting visually through the extensive glazing. However, this is only one of the senses engaged here.

“The architecture really is all about connecting with nature,” says Todd. “And central to achieving this, we designed a waterfall to cascade from a forest brook at the rear of the home down to a pond in the rock garden. It then appears to continue inside as a vertical waterfall – flowing into the heart of the home via the internal stairwell to the foyer and entry ponds.”

However, though it all looks free and flowing, in reality pump systems create the illusion of a connected water flow – even though glass walls separate the stream from its indoor counterpart.

​​​​​​​Ceiling strip lights are used in several areas architecture, ceiling, home, house, interior design, living room, Gary Todd Architecture, pendant lights
​​​​​​​Ceiling strip lights are used in several areas of the home – while they are white in this living area, some can change colour to vary the ambience.

So this flowing water finds its way into the long, linear ponds flanking the entry – thus providing a natural water connection to the lake as one enters the home. Once inside, visitors experience the scents of nature, as well – thanks to the lush vertical gardens on the hallway walls and further scented plantings on the rooftop.

Then there’s a fourth sense – touch. Board-formed concrete walls reflecting the texture of forest trees, the use of natural stone in ponds, and an exposed rock feature in the garage are just some tactile elements.

The house has features that go beyond the sensory, too. The foyer has a dramatic glass ceiling – the floor of the home office directly above – creating the feel of an airy, double height volume as you enter.

And while the home is south-facing, the interiors are light-filled and sunny.

“The architecture utilises axial view shafts to create a permeable building, overcoming the limited access to northern sunlight,” says the architect. “Glass walls around the lift and stairwell create a lightwell penetrating all four levels.”

While the home looks made for a warm climate with a facade that’s 70 per cent glass, the windows and doors are triple- glazed and argon gas filled. Winter or summer, the home is always comfortable.

Credit list

Gary Todd, Gary Todd Architecture
Kitchen design and interior design
Di Henshall Interior Design and Gary Todd Architecture
Landscape design/installation
Southern Landmarx
Symonite Alucobond
Louvre system
Acrylic Eco by Resene Paints
Casa Dolce Casa by Florim in Burlington Grey & White, from Che Stile Tiles
Acrylic Eco by Resene Paints
Kitchen sink
Mercer, undermount
Kitchen splashback
Viridian glass over television
Reverse cycle ducted air conditioning, from Davies Heat ‘n’ Cool; under-tile heating; Escea gas fires
LED strip lighting and Dali Control; pendants over dining table, Melt Pendant Gold by Tom Dixon
Lounge room – custom coffee table by Resident Hero; rug by Designer Rugs; sofas in Unique fabric with scatter cushions in Clarke and Clarke, Etamine and Fabricut; dining room – custom dining table with porcelain insert and chairs by Midj
Brian Hill, BJ Hill Builder
Kitchen manufacturer
Stevenson & Williams
Pool design and install
Southern Spas
EcoTuff TPO Membrane
Window/door joinery
Vistalite Aluminium thermal frame with double and triple glazing
Haro engineered timber floor in Tobacco Oak
Wallpaper by Casamance, Wall Gardens by Oasis
Kitchen benchtops
Statuario Nuvo by Caesarstone
Zenith Hydro tap G4 all-in-one; Buddy kitchen mixer with pull-out spray
Control systems
Strawberry Sound, Audio Visual, Lighting, Automation Control and Networking systems
Trends International Design Awards (TIDA) Homes – Winner

Story by: Charles Moxham

Photography by: Simon Darby

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