Kelvin Heights House, Queenstown - Condon Scott Architects | ArchiPro

Kelvin Heights House, Queenstown

‘Views to die for’ is a clichéd expression that is often used in real estate brochures but, on this occasion, it would accurately describe this understated family home that perches on a steep schist outcrop, almost floating over the beautiful Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown.

Architect Barry Condon of Condon Scott Architects has designed the home to embed itself into the land, with some of the decking cut to work around the schist and the local stone coming through in elements of the landscaping.

Construction was rather challenging thanks to the steep escarpment that diagonally cuts the site in two. Barry explains, “The building is literally drilled into the site, with starter bars driven into the schist stone for the footings of the house’s foundation walls. Additionally, the steep terrain made it difficult to access and operate machinery, particularly at the lower levels of the site.”

The four-bedroom home has an H-shaped plan that is essentially composed of two wedge forms. The restrained southern wedge faces the street and contains the guest bedrooms, laundry room and other services, while the living space, kitchen, dining and master suite are located in the front wing, which has been angled west towards the lake.

These two elements are connected by a long, low-roofed linkway that contains a snug and office space. When the clients are alone, they can operate in the front part of the house and easily close the southern wing off.

Height control restrictions in the area really restricted the architect in terms of what could be done with the roof shape. “We didn’t want to have endless flights of stairs, so we created a series of stepped levels that fit in under the height control envelope. These work in short half-landings and progress down through the house towards the view at the front,” says Barry.

The sleek, minimal exterior is composed of only two materials: seamed vertical black Eurotray metal and touches of warm cedar, placed on the lower levels to make it relatively easy for the clients to access and maintain. Barry suggested including the cedar to complement and break up the hard metal cladding, which, when used alone, can appear slightly clinical and cold.

Inside, the palette has been kept simple and muted. Rich, warm Southland beech has been used in both the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, and in the acoustic ceiling of the living room, which has slotted grooves that act as sound absorption. The ceiling’s design counters the effect of the hard materials, such as the large-format tile flooring and glass sliding doors, and serves as a nice focal point that draws the eye through the room to the exterior.

Well versed with the changeable conditions of Queenstown’s weather and the angles of the sun, the architect has designed two very separate outdoor spaces for year-round enjoyment. Barry explains, “The private, enclosed rear courtyard catches the morning sun and lets light back into the house in the early part of the day. In the afternoon and evening, the clients can move through to the open front deck. It’s the perfect spot to entertain, as it almost floats out over the hillside and enjoys the prime afternoon sun.”

With Kelvin Heights House, Condon Scott Architects has played on the idea of a journey that leads you from the front door to the breathtaking view. Barry says, “When you enter, the house doesn’t reveal itself straight away. You progress down through it and arrive into the living space, where, through the oversized panes of glass, the vast lake and mountain views open up in front of you.”

Words by ArchiPro editor Amelia Melbourne-Hayward.

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