St Marys Bay House - Robin O'Donnell Architects | ArchiPro

St Marys Bay House

Established in 1853 as Mount Saint Mary—after Roman Catholic Bishop Jean-Baptiste Francois Pompallier paid £1100 for 19 hectares of land in the area between Three Lamps and the shoreline—St Marys Bay enjoys spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge and Westhaven Marina and is one of Auckland’s more sought after suburbs.

It is also known for its many heritage homes and stringent consents around new builds, says architect Robin O’Donnell.

“Turn of the century villas predominate the landscape and this was one of the constraints around the design of this house. The other, more pressing issue was the very tight site, which is only 324m2 and also steeply sloping towards the rear.

“Because of the zoning and compact nature of the site, planning constraints were onerous, severely limiting the available envelope for building. This is reflected in the stepped arrangement of the gabled pavilions as the building climbs to the rear of the site with the programme being arranged over three floors.”

The brief, Robin says, was for a modern family home sympathetic in overall form to its historic context but with minimalist detailing to clearly articulate it as a new building.

“This is the second project we’ve completed for these clients—who are very design focused—and we offered a couple of iterations based on their needs, site parameters and the council’s requirements.

“The site’s narrow street frontage made the gable roof form necessary, however, stylistically it relates to the neighbouring villas. Also, it serves to frame the views of the harbour from within the building and provides an opportunity for those walking along the green below to visually occupy it.

“Further glazing has been modulated in keeping with the proximity of neighbours and other available views. A semi-enclosed terrace serves to extend and blur the division between interior and exterior spaces and allowed for the formation of a garden arrangement along the northern elevation complete with swimming pool tucked against the building.”

Programmatically, the house begins at street level with a double garage, above that the living spaces have been arranged across the mid-floor with two bedrooms and two bathrooms occupying the upper floor.

“Internally, in keeping with the clients’ request, the material palette has been kept deliberately pared back to polished concrete, walnut and steel plate, however we were careful to ensure that sightlines remained open, so even if you’re standing at the rear of the house you still have a clear outlook to the harbour view.”

Externally, materials were chosen on the basis of appearance and durability and the council-imposed requirement to go some way to integrating the new building into its historic context, says Robin.

“However, the tray roof cladding wrapping over the building and folding down the southern elevation clearly identifies the building as new.

“The focus of this project has been on delivering integrity within the rules governed by circumstance and council. The result is, I believe, well worth the effort of everyone involved.”

This new home won a 2018 NZIA Auckland Architecture Award.


Words by Justin Foote
Photography by
Fraser Newman Photography

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Situated on a narrow 324m2 site, this house has been arranged over three floors across two linked pavilions.
The living areas are all located on the mid-floor level and include access to a side courtyard. The swimming pool is located on the lower level next to the double garage.
Vertical shiplap weatherboards provide a nod to the heritage nature of the area while long-run steel, which has been wrapped down the sides of the house, give it a very contemporary feel.
The ability to go as high as 8-metres at the apex meant that the programme for the house could be accommodated over three storeys, allowing for the inclusion of outdoor areas.
Given the close proximity of neighbours, window apertures and glazing has been placed to maximise natural light and views from within the home, while providing a high level of privacy.
The floor-to-ceiling glazed gable end frames the view of the harbour while the layout of the living area provides clear sightlines from the rear of the level all the way through to the front.
The clients asked for a home that was sympathetic to its historic context but with minimalist detailing to clearly articulate it as a new building.
The internal material palette has been pared back, as per the client's wishes, to incorporate polished concrete, walnut timber and steel plate, offset by crisp white and muted tones.
In the second living area the feeling is one of warmth and comfort, the lower ceiling height, timber accents and plush carpet all work together to create a sense of relaxed luxury.
The bathroom is a contemporary take on the traditional dichromatic colour scheme using white hexagonal mosaics and walnut timber.

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