Te Pae North Piha Surf Life-Saving Tower banner

The lifeguard tower is an essential facility that enables observation, patrolling and protection at North Piha – one of New Zealand’s most beautiful but dangerous surf beaches. The tower is to serve the club and the community providing a functional and durable building to replace the existing dated structure.

The brief was for a robust, low-maintenance building that would withstand the severe North Piha coastal environment. It needed to provide accommodation for four lifeguards with excellent visibility along the beach – a building that was functional and responded to its context.

Piha is a part of the rohe (territory) of Te Kawerau ā Maki (the indigenous Māori tribe) who gifted the name Te Pae, meaning ‘to perch’ – a place to sit, look, and observe. It was a privilege to be able to incorporate this narrative into the concept for the tower.

The form offers a softness and quiet presence in this powerful coastal location. The site is remote, and so prefabricated concrete sections were factory-made and assembled on site. This minimised dune and planting disturbance on this fragile beach. North Piha is unusual in that the sand is black. The black oxidised concrete references this and the curved form reflects the undulating dunes that the building sits amongst. The tower is modest in scale and recessive, respecting its setting. At the same time, as a beacon for visitors to the beach, it requires easy recognition, and the distinctive form sits in contrast to the beautiful, rugged backdrop. This is a piece of coastal sculpture with a nod to traditional maritime observation structures around the New Zealand coast.

The tower is sustainable, utilising operable windows for ventilation, with high levels of insulation, sun protection, thermal mass, and natural light. It provides shelter and protection for the lifeguards. The placement of the windows was carefully determined with the club to provide optimum beach surveillance and a connection back to the clubhouse.

The new tower is a vital addition to safety at North Piha. It delivers a facility that supports the extraordinary volunteers who run it and meets the needs of its community now and into the future.

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Crosson Architects is an Auckland based architectural practice with an exceptional portfolio of work. Past projects include residential, commercial, institutional, masterplanning and urban design developments. Ken Crosson and his team have won numerous architectural awards locally and internationally with work being regularly published here and around the world.

Our commitment to providing a superior service to our clients is extended with membership in Designgroup New Zealand, enabling larger scale projects to be undertaken, drawing on a range of resources and expertise from partnering practices. We strive for the highest standards of client service, design and documentation. At the completion of each project, the aim is to have achieved a building that is beyond the client's expectations. We believe good design will produce sustainable, functional and dramatic spaces and buildings that have an enduring quality over time.

Each project is analysed for its special requirements and opportunities: the end result being not a preconceived idea, but a combination of the client's requirements and desires, a response to the site and the budget. Critical consideration is given to the project's specific environmental and historical context, and to the appropriate use of materials and construction methods.

At the heart of the process is the collaboration between the client and the architect. At Crosson Architects we create – and the process is vigorous and robust, rich and rewarding. Amongst other elements, we consider the physical, psychological and spiritual – achieving an outcome that is unique and life-enhancing.

We would love to offer you the opportunity to realise your dream with Ken and the team at Crosson Architects.