Sustainable Homes

An Elegant Off-Grid Home In Three Parts, On Magical Waiheke Island

In a sheltered valley on New Zealand’s spectacular Waiheke Island, a trio of dwellings sit immersed in their spectacular surrounds. The three connected structures make up one home for a couple and their two dogs, as well as occasional accommodation for their extended family and friends.

Awaawaroa by Cheshire Architects is an off-grid home that is removed of everything but the necessities, creating a simple and fulfilling life for its owners, guided by the environment they love.

Sally Tabart

The long concrete table extends the length of the interior, right out to the external courtyard. Pottery vessel by Jane Burn. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

A post stamp view out to the hills and the water. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

Inside the living quarters, line with recycled Oregon timber. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

Ceramics by Sophie Moran. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

The sleeping quarters. Bedding by Kip + Co. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

Looking out from the main living quarters into the internal courtyard. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

The living quarters are anchored around the fireplace. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

Details in the bathroom. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

Awaawaroa at night. Photo – Jackie Meiring.

Sally Tabart
19th of March 2021

Sometimes, it’s an architect’s job to make as little impact as possible.

‘When the owners purchased the site it was a vacant hillside of some 8.5 hectares’, explains Sarah Gilbertson, Principal architect and designer at Auckland-based firm Cheshire Architects. ‘Their first occupation of the site was built mostly by themselves.’ A timber-lined container was placed high on a hill with a large deck oriented towards the view, an outdoor bathroom, BBQ and campfire. The dwelling was simple, and the life lived in it was one closely aligned with nature.

With a desire to maintain the informality of this original settlement, Cheshire Architects proposed three separate structures that housed different functions – one for living, one for sleeping and bathing, and another one for guests – more like an encampment than a single house. The three structures are separate, but connected, arranged around a sunny courtyard that acts as a natural meeting place.

The main living pavilion is a humble but generous structure, its pitched roof emerging from the skyline. ‘[It] appears wedged into the hillside, its gable form emphasised by the falling slope of the hill, anchoring the informal courtyard and bedrooms which are nestled behind it’, says Sarah. Clad in timber and lined with recycled Oregon boards, all but the necessities are stripped away. A magnificent concrete dining table grounds the space, extending from the internal living area right out into the external courtyard.

Sleeping + bathing areas for the owners and their occasional guests occupy the remaining two pavilions. The structures are cloaked in canvas, to ‘amplify the intricate woodiness of the cabin thresholds by contrasting them with a skin that is both taught and soft’, Sarah explains.’These buildings are a family of similar but not identical parts, all of which sit comfortably in the landscape’

Cheshire Architects have not only designed a beautiful home here, but provided the tools and space for a quiet life of simple fulfilment.

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