Sometimes with great architecture, it can be almost as much about what you don't see as what you do. Here, the owners had bought a spectacular, if remote, cliffside property and asked designer Darren O'Neil to shape a house to match the site but there were constraints to overcome.
"I had designed another house for the couple many years ago and so they asked me to undertake this project a modern, highly sustainable home on an isolated site," says O'Neil. "However, the idyllic position also included important national archeological sites and to complicate things further, protected pohutakawa trees were threaded through the site. All this together meant the design had to make as light an impact on the land as was possible."
O'Neil actually came up with sketches for the house on the back of a napkin in a matter of minutes. However, while the form of the home is uncomplicated to the eye, it required extensive behind-the-scenes engineering to make it all work.
"To minimise impact on the land and to avoid so much as touching a single pohutakawa root, we designed the home as two cantilevered forms, loosely forming a t-shape, with a solid concrete core or base," he says. "The idea was the house would have a clean-lined, sculptural presence of its own while the cedar cladding particularly as it silvers would connect with the trees all around."
It is the walls of the simple, elongated wings that hold the secret to the extreme cantilevers that stretch out to the views.
"Even with a solid concrete base as an anchor there is no way these forms could maintain stability by a simple base frame. Instead both structures are fully supported by a steel latticework structure running through the walls much like that seen on an exposed metal lattice bridge."