I’ve been eyeing off the work of Herbst Architects for a few months now, so my only real issue today was in choosing which house to feature… Sometimes I feel as though I should be writing about the most recent, hot off the press architecture from around Australia and New Zealand, and then sometimes I find myself returning over and over to certain buildings, and that sometimes these buildings just aren’t brand spanking new. I don’t think that this really is a problem, I mean, good architecture should be some of the most lasting of all human creation, so surely a few years here or there doesn’t matter, right?
Timms Bach by Herbst Architects
This house, completed in 2010 on Great Barrier Island, NZ, is one that I keep coming back to. I can’t quite get over just how deftly it navigates the realm between interior and exterior space, the space that sits on the very precipice of that which makes up our traditional notion of the ‘house’ and conversely, the outside space that is the garden, surrounding natural environment, light, and weather. I very much enjoy that this house overtly deteriorates our understanding of what a house might be, that it questions the role that architectural form might play in defining rooms, and throws to the wind the idea that the garden is one thing, the house another – it contradicts the notion that our ‘needs’ prescribe that we are unable to achieve a genuine cross-over of the both. Oh yes, we all talk about inside/outside space these days, we’ve all got lovely big bi-fold doors sketched on our plans to ‘open up the lounge room to the garden’, but does that mean that we can re-label these interior rooms as some sort of hybrid space that is neither house nor garden? No, I don’t think so. Yet Herbst Architects can indeed define many of their spaces in this way. I like the courage of this approach and the clarity of the outcome, I like that their clients are encouraged to think outside of the realm of normal, or typical architectural space, and that the resultant spaces have truly blurred the boundary between what is architecture, what is landscape, what is space, and what can be achieved by thinking carefully about negative (left over) space.
Materially, the house speaks of summer holidays by the camp fire. The mood is relaxed, pared back, and elegantly simple. In terms of arrangement, the house elaborates on the camp site, carefully negotiating and screening out neighbouring properties to ensure the shared living, cooking, and eating areas are able to take advantage of the best views, whilst ensuring a feeling of quiet gathering and escape. These areas are centered around the camp fire itself, positioned in a truly outdoor room that allows surveillance across the site in both directions. This space is roofed, but only partially walled. It successfully denotes itself as architectural space, and is yet heavily at one with the landscape, allowing the occupants the flexibility to screen out the elements when necessary, but for the most part encouraging a constant interaction with the site. The bedrooms are accessed via a covered deck that forms the boundary of a grassed courtyard off the outdoor room. The bedrooms, like the sleeping quarters on the camp site, are off to the side. They are quiet, utilitarian, night-time spaces that are well and truly secondary to the public spaces, the landscape, and the views.
Timms Bach is the kind of holiday house that you want to move to – permanently. It is highly detailed, extremely well considered, and yet confidently stripped back. It embodies so well the feeling that one wants from a holiday escape – taking one back to childhood trips to grassy parks by the beach, to meals cooked by the camp fire, to the slowly baking, sweaty nature of the morning sun warming up the tent. – In a good way, of course!
All photographs by Jackie Meiring, sourced from Herbst Architects H