Mount Gold – 'Our Forever Home' - ao architecture | ArchiPro

Mount Gold – 'Our Forever Home'

Enjoying stunning views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains, Mount Gold House is the ‘forever home’ of a Christchurch family who headed south to build their dream. Designed by AO Architecture, this unique award-winning home has an unusual patterned cladding that draws inspiration from the windswept branches of the hardy native kanuka trees.

Just five-minutes-drive from the township of Wanaka, Mount Gold is located on a 3,011m² site in Penrith Park overlooking the lake, the sort of place real estate agents like to call a ‘highly desirable’ location. “The owners wanted a ‘forever home’ that would operate well as their three teenagers grow up,” explains Michael John of Christchurch-based practice AO Architecture. “It was built by the owner’s firm, Homesmade Wanaka, but it’s not a display home; it’s designed as a functional home that evokes feelings.”

“In this area, there are a lot of subdivisions with homes constructed in southern-style schist, but we decided to do something different’,” says Michael. “So, we created a design that still honours the architecture of the area, with the pitched gable forms that are commonplace in Otago, but it avoids looking too Disneylandish.”

The main pavilion form has two storeys, with the lower floor providing a solid concrete base for the timber-clad upper storey. Clad with distinctive larch screens arranged in an origami-like formation and charred using a Japanese technique calledshou-sugi-ban, which preserves and waterproofs the surface and creates a rustic burnt finish.

The designers tried various iterations to achieve the pattern, which is an interpretation of the patterns seen in the windswept kanuka trees on the property and around the local area. In the tea tree family like manuka, kanuka supports reforestation and offers protection in this wind-exposed lakeside environment.

As a result, the house has been designed to be quite sprawling with sheltered courtyards and decked areas away from the wind. Arranged with three separate wings that spiral outwards from a two-storeyed pavilion form, two of the three wings contain bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, while the other wing contains the garage/workshop, a games room and a boatshed. The lower level of the main pavilion has three bedrooms, a family bathroom and a hallway that also acts as a gallery.

“One of the owners is an artist who wanted a public gallery for displaying artworks indoors and installations, both indoors and out,” says Michael. Lined in a simple material palette of pale timber and stone, the hallway/gallery is a beautiful sculptural space that incorporates a staircase that leads to the upper store.

The hallway runs along the edge of the building with a series of large windows that line up with the gaps between a series of six concrete arches that extend out from the house to form an external boardwalk. “The corridor creates a procession to the front door of the house,” says Michael. “We wanted a cool entrance that’s not typical and also functions as a gallery so the owners and her friends can host exhibitions.”

On the lower-storey exterior, raw concrete has been left rustic with the memory of the rough-sawn timber boards used in the shuttering still embedded. This finish adds texture to an otherwise grey, austere surface, providing a perfect contrast to the charred larch and the warm, cabin-like interior where exposed timber is prominent.

Sustainability was at the forefront of this design, which was built with passive house principles but isn’t officially certified. “The house is constructed from structural insulated panels that have at least three times the insulation properties as a typical New Zealand home,” says Michael. “We installed a heat exchanger to draw in cool air from outside, heat it up and, then, transfer it into other parts of the house; and it also extracts the stale air.” The house is also double-glazed, airtight and the concrete slab helps with solar gain, meaning that no heating is actually needed in this home, despite enduring cold snowy winters.

While snow is a common occurrence in this part of the country, Mount Gold House sits only several hundred metres from the lake and snow isn’t too much of an issue. However, the engineer still needed to factor the weight of snow into the design of the flat roof on the main block, while the gables on the bedroom forms, common in the classic colonial homes around the region, create natural slopes for any snow to slide off.

Mount Gold sits within one of the coveted high-quality developments currently going up in the rapidly growing Wanaka area. “The house is in a sensitive ecological zone, so council resource consent was a tricky one to negotiate because we had to mitigate any potential issues to meet the guidelines,” says Michael.

“We had to reduce the visual impact of the house, which included keeping as many of the kanuka trees on the site as possible, so the overall plan of the house had to negotiate these,” he says.  They were also required to use recessive colours, hence the burnt larch cladding, and to build temporary posts on the site so the council could see what the height and mass of the home would look like from the lake once it was built. “Basically, everything had to be looked at,” he adds.

An architectural project is often best summed up by the happiness of the clients and the architect, which is very positive in this instance. “We are really happy with the design, which is the feel-good part of this process,” says Michael. “It’s actually quite an impressive house to see and a lot of that is owed to the dedication of the builder-owner, who was very involved throughout and made it a really smooth process.”


Words by Justine Harvey.

Photography by Simon Larkin.

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With stunning views of Lake Wanaka, this unusual home has distinctive charred timber cladding that blends beautifully into the surrounding hills and mountains.
Low-lying cloud over the lake creates a dramatic backdrop to Mount Gold house. In the foreground, the exterior concrete corridor forms a procession to the entry of the house.
One of two gabled bedroom wings are linked to the main pavilion form of the house.
The patterned cladding and rainscreening interprets the windswept form of the native kanuka trees that can be found on the property.
Light seeps out of cracks in the protective screens that sit over the windows on the southern face of the bedroom wing.
Mitred corners on the angled larch cladding adds a sculptural element to the building.
Glazing links the external and internal corridors, providing space for displaying art.
The southern elevation lit up at dusk highlights the screening over the windows and the glazing into the internal gallery/hallway.
The external corridor creates an amazing entrance to the house and can also be used as a gallery space for artworks.
The view from the tennis court of the northern elevation with bedroom wings on either side.
 A recessed corner window creates a dramatic aperture in the upper storey façade. Sliding doors in the bedroom wing open out to a deck and overlook the tennis court.
The upper-storey deck leading into the living area.
A cosy living space on the upper storey with built-in fireplace with stone surround and a corner bay window overlooking the lake.
The open-plan dining and living area opens out to the deck on the right. A staircase on the left leads to the lower-level gallery/hallway.
The kitchen is finished with a natural material palette of stone and timber.
A long stainless-steel bench is a practical work surface in the kitchen and scullery.
Underneath the staircase, the hallway/gallery leads towards a decked area at the end and the entry and processional corridor/gallery on the right .
The hallway/gallery looking towards one of the bedroom wings.
An exterior view of the bathroom with its striking black stone oval-shaped bath.
The gallery space off the hallway has a deck off the end, while glazed arches overlook a micro-landscape in the main courtyard near the entrance.
A photographic site plan.
The ground-floor and first-floor plans of Mount Gold House by AO Architecture.
The north and south elevations of Mount Gold House by AO Architecture.

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