JMAC Architecture: “These townhouses are an exploration in a genre of building that is a direct response to redefining the expectations of medium density housing”

Designed by Jason Macdonald, JMAC Architecture

From the architect:

Owner brief

In 2019 we were commissioned to design dwellings for a seaside site on a high traffic roadway at Mt Maunganui. 

The brief was for two refined three level townhouses of a scale and mass to elevate interior position while maintaining a considered approach to the impact on the neighbouring properties and street scene. 

Design ideas addressed the ability to ‘borrow’ open space from the abutting public reserve space and to use a mix and layering of robust materials to soften the building mass for public viewing and allow the design to rest harmoniously in its coastal setting.

The owner’s ambition was to make the coast-facing dwelling their family home and retain the street facing dwelling as luxury accommodation for short term rental guests.

Site response

With design objectives in mind, it was imagined that the dwellings be arranged as two free-standing masses. 

This allowed the dwellings to push against the open space of the reserve and terrace the contour of the site.

The current District Planning bylaws required a Resource Consent consultation process testing the effects of the new proposal on the adjacent properties – considering sun shadowing, sight lines, respectful privacy and building mass separations. 

These are typical challenges of delivering successful medium density developments.

On-site vehicle manoeuvring with additional off-street parking provided safe solutions against the high traffic roadway.

The gifting of a native coastal planting programme to the reserve was offered by the owners to enhance existing public landscape realm and dissolve the dwellings into the shelter of exiting Pohutukawa and the dune-like contour of the adjacent reserve space.

Careful consideration was taken in ensuring the dwellings nestled into the site and their palette was considerate to the immediate coastal environment to ensure the visual impact was minimal.

Jason Macdonald: “It’s my belief the new buildings should ‘grow out’ of their existing conditions and quietly assume their rightful place.”

Overall functionality – creativity & spacial design

The design has a simple rectangular plan, stacked vertically so it is lifted out of the site to embrace natural light and to enhance views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding horizons, including the coastal reach to Mt Maunganui. 

The design designates flexible sleeping and service rooms to the ground floor; both family sleeping to upper floors and with all the living spaces located on the mid floor are accompanied by generous deck living. 

Stacked floors align stair, services, lift and structural load bearing for efficient construction.


The surrounding landscape features a stunning palette of coastal hues of sea and dune vegetation – this became a critical part of deciding the colours to be used both inside and outside to ensure the design married contextually with its surrounding.

Cedar, coated steel, and concrete textures clad the exterior with timber screens giving texture and visual relief. 

A mix of glass balustrades and timber screens also provide a combination of transparency, reflection, and privacy.

Intricate cedar slat screens act as as a leitmotif, dissolving the distinction between the architectural and natural worlds. 

Moving beyond timber’s traditional role as cladding or framing material, the rhythmic spacing of the wooden slats provides playful changes in shadows cast by natural and night illumination over the building’s facades and interiors. 

Delivering not only a home for its occupants, but a sculpture enjoyed by the public realm.

Explore the homes.

Credit list

Kitchen designer
Interior designer
StoLit Milano, from Hermpac Pacific; Eurostyle Spanlok, by Roofing Industries
Window/door joinery
APL, from NZ Windows
Cedar, from HermPac Pacific
Riordan Construction
Kitchen manufacturer
Eastwood Kitchens
Landscape design
5 Rib Plumbdek, from Steel & Tube
Bedroom flooring
Carpet, from Gerrand Floorings
Trends International Design Awards (TIDA) Homes – Highly Commended

Designed by: Jason Macdonald, JMAC Architecture

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Amanda Aitken

23 Jul, 2023

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