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A Compact Wellington Home Built Around A Flowering Internal Courtyard

Architecture

When designing a family home on a compact site, it can be tempting to forgo outdoor space in favour of larger interior rooms. 

On a recent project in Wellington, New Zealand, Spacecraft Architects took a different approach. Rather than occupy the entire 164 square metre site, or build upwards, the designed an inward facing home around an internal courtyard to improve the home’s privacy, protection from the elements, and view. 

This sheltered, private garden is conceptually and literally central to the entire project, creating an oasis on an otherwise exposed urban site.

9th June, 2022

‘Finally A Court House’ is a new home in Berhampore, Wellington, New Zealand designed by Spacecraft Architects. Photo – David Straight

The compact home centres around an internal courtyard with colourful blooming cosmos. Photo – David Straight

External walls built to the boundary (not visible to the residents when in the home) are clad in fire-resistant and economical fibre cement sheet. Photo – David Straight

The internal courtyard walls viewable from inside the house feature macrocarpa weatherboards. Photo – David Straight

Clear corrugated polycarbonate shelters select outdoor spaces from the excessive Wellington winds, while letting in sun and a slightly refracted view. Photo – David Straight

The house takes the form of a square, with two continuous sides containing the living areas, kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms. Photo – David Straight

Every room except for the bathroom is afforded direct views of the central courtyard, creating the effect of an ever changing piece of furniture. Photo – David Straight

The clients had worked with Spacecraft before, placing their full trust in the practice to design a beautiful, functional home. Photo – David Straight

High ceilings and windows frame trees outside. Photo – David Straight

The 81 square metre internal floor plan is compact but functional. Photo – David Straight

There are two bedrooms in the home, in addition to a standalone room that accommodates an office or third bedroom.  Photo – David Straight

The standalone studio/third bedroom entry. Photo – David Straight

The simple modern bathroom. Photo – David Straight

The sheltered, private garden is conceptually and literally central to the entire project, creating an oasis on an otherwise exposed urban site. Photo – David Straight

‘I love the garden (obviously) and how this becomes an ever changing part of the house furniture,’ says the architect. Photo – David Straight

‘Sitting outside eating dinner with candles while the wind is howling outside is pretty special too.’ Photo – David Straight

The way the geometry of the roof resolves as it moves around the square is very satisfying and the subtly twisting form of the living room is quite nice. Photo – David Straight

Amelia Barnes
Thursday 9th June 2022

‘By looking inward on the site, we could create a sheltered, private garden which also feels like an oasis in such a constrained urban site.’ – Tim Gittos. 

In ‘Finally A Court House’, Spacecraft Architects were tasked with designing a new family home on a 164 square metre backyard site in Berhampore, New Zealand.

The clients had worked with Spacecraft before, placing their full trust in the practice to design a beautiful, functional home. ‘We also knew how they live and broadly what their needs were, so we could operate quite fluidly,’ says Tim Gittos, Spacecraft Architects director. 

Spacecraft Architects initially explored designing a ‘tower’ on site, although this was quickly  thrown out. Tim explains, ‘We realised early on that if we built up on the site, in the form of a tower, the house would be very exposed both to the elements and from a privacy point of view.’ 

Instead, Spacecraft devised a single-storey, inward facing home around an internal courtyard covering an 81 square metre internal floor plan. The architects have been fine tuning this courtyard concept for years, ‘partially due to an interest in vernacular forms of this (from almost every climate, from India to ancient Rome) and also in the work of architects like Geoffrey Bawa in Sri Lanka,’ says Tim. 

‘By looking inward on the site, we could create a sheltered, private garden which also feels like an oasis in such a constrained urban site.’ 

The house takes the form of a square, with two continuous sides containing the living areas, kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms. The remaining sides are dedicated to additional outdoor space, positioned on either side of a standalone room that accommodates an office or third bedroom. 

External walls built to the boundary (not visible to the residents when in the home) are clad in fire-resistant and economical fibre cement sheet, while the internal walls viewable from the courtyard feature macrocarpa weatherboards. Clear corrugated polycarbonate shelters select outdoor spaces from the excessive Wellington winds, while letting in sun and a slightly refracted view.

Every room except for the bathroom is afforded direct views of the central courtyard with colourful blooming cosmos, creating the effect of an ever changing piece of furniture. 

‘An unexpected aspect is how the gate into the courtyard feels like the front door of the house, which further reinforces the garden as an interior space,’ says Tim.  

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net