Skylark Cabin - Barry Connor Design | ArchiPro

Skylark Cabin

Gently nestled into the tussock grasslands of the Ben Ohau Range foothills sits Skylark Cabin, a tiny home measuring in at less than 50sqm. But don’t let its small size deceive you, this home doesn’t skimp on creature comforts or wow factor in its architectural offering.

“The underlying form is of two offset open plan spaces. The angle of the offset derived from plotting specific sightlines: lying in bed, showering, washing dishes, sitting, standing. The form also nods to the aerial antics of the local skylarks with their angular, precise and purposeful acrobatics,” says Barry Connor, Architectural Designer.

“Manuka Terrace is a recent subdivision of 10-acre blocks on the outskirts of Twizel at the base of the Ben Ohau Range. Regulations allow for the building of an additional minor dwelling that is no more than four metres in height and 50sqm in total.

“There was no time frame stipulation from council as to when dwellings need to be completed or in what order. The Skylark cabin forms part of a bigger vision for the site—The Burrows—which will be the next stage of the development and will comprise a small cluster of 20-foot shipping containers converted into luxury cabins that will be partially buried and interconnected to a main living area. This will be a 2–5-year project.”

Barry says the eventual placement of the main dwelling was one of the factors taken into consideration when working out the placement of Skylark Cabin. Also taken into account is a ground movement easement that cuts diagonally through the site as well as the naturally monocline nature of the site.

“All of these factors worked in our favour instead of against us, allowing us to create a sense of arrival. I thought it would be a nice touch to meander the driveway; to set up an introduction to the cabin as you come in from the entry.

“The intention was never for the building to stick out from the land. A hard, angular building such as this would look really out of place if we'd stuck it on top of a hill but by allowing it to settle into the landscape it has a really discreet presence.”

The clients’ brief, says Barry, was for a simple retreat with honest materials, a place to quite literally soak up the landscape with a focus on effortless relaxation.

“The client had a design board of their ‘wishlist’ criteria, which included an idea for the cladding that they had seen in Sweden—a timber facade wrapping up and around the structure like a protective shell.

“The exterior is cloaked in a band-sawn larch timber rainscreen and represents the idea of a bird’s nest, which reflects the natural aspect of the project. Located within a harsh and extreme alpine climate the materiality also needed to consider the radical temperature shifts throughout the year. The rainscreen cladding was chosen as it will weather in overtime and, being a panelised solution, can also be removed and replaced as necessary.”

The use of a single cladding material also means it's the architectural ‘folds’ and ‘creases’ that create interest—in a sculptural sense—rather than relying on multiple materials. The interior follows on from that, with the beech ply echoing the folds and creases, while the introduction of a very simple shadowline negative detail and the use of light beams, accentuates the lines.

“The light Beech plywood interior reflects the warm cream tones found outside, blurring the threshold between built environment and tussock grassland—capturing the feeling of being nestled right in the landscape. Black-edged ply rib detailing represents the “cradle” of being inside, protected, safe and private.”

Using apertures, including the roof window, to frame the views from each room allows the cabin to give back quite a lot in terms of views, a sense of space and connectivity, says Barry.

“The seemingly randomly placed windows—with their burnt orange frames—punctuate the band-sawn larch shell, accommodating the purposefully framed views of the mountains that throughout the day provide interest, perspective and scale. At night the circular skylight over the bed provides views of the prized and protected Mackenzie Aoraki Dark Sky Reserve and lazy views of the vast hazy skies during the day.

Barry says while the placement of the windows appears, at first glance, to be haphazard it doesn’t take too long to realise there is real purpose in their arrangement—much like the rest of the design of the cabin.

“Smaller houses offer more challenges in terms of getting all aspects of the design correct and making the spaces do more than one thing. There is a massive amount of work involved in constraining everything. You have to be really intentional in your design and justify every square inch of space—at the end, though, it’s all there; the only thing we’ve done is to strip back the arrangement of a standard home to focus on the absolute essentials.”

Conceived as a place for relaxation and retreat the intention was to provide for only the essentials: a place to cook, sleep, reflect and bathe. Contemporary yet curated… a pure space as a bedrock of relaxation.

Words by: Justin Foote
Photography by: Lightforge Photography

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Skylark Cabin | Barry Connor Design | ArchiPro
Gently nestled into the tussock grasslands of the Ben Ohau Range foothills sits Skylark Cabin, a tiny home measuring in at less than 50sqm.
The underlying form is of two offset open plan spaces. One contains the bedroom and bathroom and is positioned to allow morning sun to filter through. The other holds the kitchen, entry and living areas and enjoys closer views of the Ben Ohau Range.
The site is permeated with native tussock grasses and more refined planting, which allows the cabin to nestle gently into the land and sets up a sense of arrival as you meander down the driveway.
Entry to the home is via the carport, with its ClearVue roof extending down from the cabin roofline before being 'anchored' at the other end to the hidden storage block and bike racks.
Natural stone boulders—reclaimed from the site excavation—were used to create a nested plinth on which the cabin perches.
Named for the skylarks which inhabit the area, the folded form of the cabin also nods to the distinctive aerial display of these local birds with their angular, precise and purposeful acrobatics.
The exterior is cloaked in a rough-sawn larch timber rainscreen and represents the idea of a birds nest, which refelcts the natural aspect of the project.
The circular skylight, which is positioned over the bed, provides views of the stars at night, as well as lazy views of the vast hazy skies during the day.
Burnt orange window frames punctuate the larch shell. The colour was a specific client request and has been used to emphasise the main structural elements.
The seemingly random placement of the windows actually accommodates purposefully framed views of the mountains and surroundings that throughout the day and night provide interest, perspective and scale.
The rain screen cladding was chosen as it will weather in overtime and can also be removed and replaced as necessary. The use of LED 'light beams'—both externally and internally—helps accentuate the folds and creases within the architecture.
A series of burnt orange structural frames extending down from the cabin roofline, lend a sense of spaciousness to the overall design without increasing the permitted footprint.
In contrast to the black larch exterior, the beech plywood interior reflects the warm, natural tones of the tussock grasses and helps extend the feeling of being nestled right in the landscape.
The black-edged ply rib detailing represents the “cradle” of being inside—protected, safe and private.
Conceived as a place for relaxation and retreat the intention was to provide for only the essentials: a place to cook, sleep, reflect and bathe.
A deck, built over and around the rock plinth, provides an all-important outdoor space from which to revel in the peaceful surroundings.
The shape and form of the cabin, along with the placement of the windows, was derived from plotting specific views from certain activities: lying in bed; washing the dishes; having a shower; and sitting or standing in the living area.
Located on the outskirts of Twizel, the cabin enjoys views of the prized and protected Mackenzie Aoraki Dark Sky Reserve.