Saint Remy - Young Architects | ArchiPro

The outer-lying coastal suburb of Redcliffs, to the east of Christchurch city, was badly affected by the 2011 earthquake, with images broadcast of houses teetering on top of the cliff and those below shown swamped by rockfall.

Even houses across the suburb not directly impacted by falling rocks were damaged beyond repair, says architect Greg Young.

“The owners of this property had not long taken possession of their brand new home when the earthquake hit. It was really important to us, then, to design them a house that was more than just a replacement for the one they lost, but a true family home they could finally settle into.”

Greg says while the previous house was unsalvageable, the plan was to reuse all of the retaining walls, concrete slab and services and to maintain the footprint of the home.

“We were able to reuse the retaining walls but unfortunately the original slab was damaged, as were some of the services, which meant we had to replace them.”

Greg was able to keep to the original footprint but reorganised the programme to configure the spaces differently.

“The original house was two storeys, with this new home, we arranged it over three split levels and have built over the garage as well. Formal entry is at the mid-level and we’ve also incorporated a more informal entry on the lower level accessing the living area.

“There are three bedrooms, each with a breakout space and ensuite—the existing footprint was not large enough to accommodate more bedrooms without compromising on size, so we went with three good-sized rooms rather than create four cramped ones.”

Elsewhere in the house the design established a hierarchy of spaces to maximise the site; those that will be used the most—both interior and exterior—are linked to the living areas, while service areas have been linked by the staircase.

“The owners are keen proponents of the Christchurch Style, which was being established and evolved in the city in the 1960s. We've utilised similar forms, with high pitched ceilings following the roof lines, solid walls and large windows.

“The material palette, too, has been influenced by the Christchurch Style—concrete, steel, glass and timber, all relying on the materials’ natural and honest beauty. We have, however, used a concrete block veneer rather than full concrete block.”

Greg says that while they have been influenced by the Christchurch Style particularly in this instance, it is an aesthetic that his practice uses as a general course.

“One of the aspects I like the most about this house is having been able to take the Christchurch Style and show how relevant it is—and to be able to merge it with current technologies. It is a school of design that I really respect and I believe that we should have carried on using it a lot more.

“This is a home that remembers its history, while being designed to be efficient and easy to live in for its future. It celebrates honest materials, honest forms and structural integrity and captures large views from within deep recesses to mitigate solar gain.”

While the big ESD principle of the project was working with the existing site parameters, Greg says passive design elements such as the recesses have been teamed with products such as wool insulation, solar panels and Control4 home automation for energy management, as well as blinds, heating and appliance control.

“All of it has been designed to provide the owners with a home that enhances and elevates their lifestyle. That extends to outside as well, the landscaping is more comprehensive than previously, as we added a swimming pool and terracing, which was no mean feat—you have to ‘build’ everything when dealing with a hill site.”

Words by Justin Foote
Photography by Lightforge Photography

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Located in the east-Christchurch suburb of Redcliffs, this house draws on elements of the Christchurch Style of architecture, which emerged in the city in the 1960s.
Designed to replace a house damaged in the earthquakes, this new home uses the same footprint as the former.
Concrete blocks were a key element in the Christchurch Style. Architect Greg Young chose a concrete block veneer to reference the style.
The house has been arranged over three split levels with a further portion built over the garage and clad in timber weather boards.
The influence of the Christchurch Style lends the interiors a retro feel, enhanced by the colour palette of natural timbers and solid colours.
An eclectic mix of furniture and accessories complements the architectural styling creating a classic modern interior.
Floor-to-ceiling windows are another Christchurch Style feature and one that the architect also likes to employ.
A break-out space off the main bedroom gives the homeowners a private area they can retreat to at the end of the day.
A mix of materials in the main ensuite continues the eclectic vibe found throughout the home.
Located behind the break-out space, the ensuite uses a mix of clerestory and internal windows, as well as a skylight to bring light into the space.
Shiplap vertical weatherboards have been used both internally and externally to impart a sense of the bedroom and verandah being connected spaces.
Shiplap on the door creates a seamless look and complements the crisp colour palette. The ceiling plane follows the roofline for an added sense of volume and space.
Located above the garage, the rumpus room is an area for the kids to relax in. The palette is dramatic and different to anything else in the house.
The living areas and outdoor spaces have been recessed into the building line to mitigate solar gain. The deep overhangs also help to frame the view, creating vignettes from every room.
The material palette incorporates concrete, steel, glass and timber—all widely used in the Christchurch Style.
The design for the incorporated a swimming pool, which the previous house lacked.
The architect says incorporating the swimming pool and entertaining terraces brought a whole new level of complexity to the design as they needed to be built up from the hill site.
The house looks out over the Avon Heathcote Estuary and further to New Brighton in the city's north.