New Family House by Leuschke Kahn Architects
There is something quite strange about this house, it seems almost foreign, as though it might have once belonged in northern Europe and somehow floated into NZ, plot of land and all. Perhaps that is part of the reason that I like this house. It has no particularly stunning outlook or rugged landscape to contend with, but instead creates its own quiet, internalised vistas, and does so in a very neat and refined manner.
The approach to the house is slow and contemplative, its form a pared-back interpretation of its traditional neighbouring dwellings. The house is overtly introverted (…yes, I think it’s possible…) – its largely uninterrupted front wall of blackened cedar cladding pushing the building’s form backward off the street, making the house recede into its treed surroundings. Yet behind this front line the house takes on a different character; to the sides and rear it opens up generously and confidently to its surrounding garden spaces. The feel is consistently subdued, but decidedly more relaxed where privacy prevails.
The house’s overall palette is very articulate – it seems as though there has been a definitive move away from excess – excess materials, colours, textures, and decorative elements, and yet the house maintains a feeling of warmth because this process of refinement has been explored slowly and thoughtfully, without even having an excess of reduction. Everything has been managed in a way that results in careful balance between clarity and humanism. Texture remains in the cedar cladding, the brick, and the interior materials, but this texture is harmonised in terms of colour, so that the texture of the materials themselves become the interest as opposed to their inherent colour or pattern. Of course, this aesthetic simplification makes a visual statement in itself, but it also aids to let the architecture speak – it frees the inhabitants to experience the connection between inside and out, to focus on the greenery of the garden, and to appreciate the quality of light within each space.
Often I find refrained architecture to be cold, uninviting, and stiff. I don’t find this house any of those things, and I think that this is because it is not so much refrained but loosened by the clarity of this design approach.
Photos from Leuschke Kahn Architects