Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Parekh Residence (Cascade house) in Wellington, New Zealand by studio MWA
June 13th, 2017 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: studio MWA
The new Residence is located at the southern border of the development of Seagrove Conservation Estate in the Wellington suburb of Newlands, perched over a cliff above State Highway 2 towards Petone and less than couple of hundred meters from the Wellington harbour.
The name of the project is self-explanatory, clearly illustrating our intention, how on a sloping site, we satisfied the clients requirements, giving full attention to every aspect of quality design and nicely settling the new Residence into the surrounding environment.
The project brief required that the house be a four-bedroom home, with two living areas, a prayer nook, rumpus/studio area, double garage with storage area, master bedroom with an ensuite and walking wardrobe, main bathroom, separate toilet and laundry area with plenty of sheltered outdoor areas – opened and covered, including a BBQ area with an outdoor open fire and spa pool area for two, accessible from the Master bedroom suite.
Other requirements were to have a site sensitive approach, with full appreciation of the surrounding nature, the slope of the site, orientation, access, planning requirements and limitations, client requirements and budget have been, like for all of our projects, key determining factors in our design.
At our first site visit, it was quite obvious, that the amazing, unobstructed view towards Wellington harbor was one of the primary reasons the clients purchased this block of land.
The site position and orientation – predominantly north/south direction with contour differences of over 11 m from the top – north to south and vehicle access at the bottom of the site, determined the best positions for many of the primary spaces.
One of very early on decisions we made, was to limit the buildings height so as we didn’t obstruct the view of any of the neighboring houses, a few we had already designed, and at the same time we were able to nicely sit the building onto the site.
Of course one of the primary concerns with this site is the full exposure to the strong southerly winds which is often accompanied by rain, opposing this is the warmer but strong East Westerly winds too, these conditions limit the possibilities of outdoor activities.
As we generally do, our design researchers used a combination of free hand sketches, scale and computer models, investigation with manufacturers and installers researching our need to involve some innovative approaches, all with the goal to help us as a team to deliver the best result, for the client and the site.
During the initial concept stage we grouped activities into individual zones, which helped to elaborate on the design requirements further. We found that the simple partial overlapping of individual blocks with dedicated activities while following the slope of the site gave many advantages and achieved some of the key goals such as, capturing the best views, excellent capture of sun, creation of an interesting cascading form, creation of semi enclosed and sheltered courtyard spaces both open and covered.
To strategically take full advantage of the sloping site and to maximize the view, the decision was made to push the building as much as practical towards the back and towards the highest part of the property. This remained a large front flat area for car access, turning and visitor car parking and provided a decent distance to the neighboring houses below.
We had full freedom from our clients, to choose the best and the most appropriate finishes for this project, when addressing the exterior finishes, we recognized that the chosen materials must be versatile, hardy and help us to emphasize the architectural composition and our design intention.
The final design is a three storied building, but rather than simply stack the stories on top of each other to reduce the construction cost and footprint, we decided to follow the site contours and create platforms and thereby the floors as cascades, addressing the homes functional requirements.
The ground level is occupied by a double garage with storage area to the southern side and on northern side a large rumpus room or alternatively a studio/office space, or a fifth bedroom with walk-in wardrobe and ensuite. Centrally is located the main entrance to the house with a covered area.
This central spine from the entry way was one of the early design decisions to dedicate the centre of the composition for communication and easy navigation through the building. It resulted in the entry hall which accommodates large storage cupboards and internal access from the garage, it includes a straight single flight of stairs with an internal garden, appearing at the middle level as part of open plan kitchen, living, dining area with easy access to the Master bedroom suite and prayer nook, all located towards the front of the house capturing the incredible view of Wellington harbour. Close to the top of these stairs are access to the sheltered North courtyard and on the opposite side another, semi covered and partially enclosed outdoor living area towards the South. Also on this level we accommodated a formal lounge open towards the courtyard and the rising eastern sun with the ability to be fully enclosed by large sliding glass panels when required, so it often performs as a home theater too. Behind, but separate from the kitchen is the service area which accommodates a toilet and laundry area with access to the sheltered rear deck, with a fordable clothesline. Overall this middle level occupies nearly 50 % of the overall home.
Flowing up from the same line as the entry hall and lower steps is located a second straight flight of steps to a private, fully east orientated bedroom block which includes three double bedrooms with the main bathroom and glazed hallway towards the west connecting them together. From the glass hallway is easy access to the Western sheltered deck by large sliding glass doors. The top three bedrooms have their entire front opening onto the Eastern terraces with the view towards Wellington harbour.
The key factors which influenced our design and the choice of materials was the site being located close to the sea, and the tough climate conditions constantly bombarding the building, the wind zone came within the Specific Design area of the building code, and as such our clients required a tough low maintenance, cost effective solution for the exterior cladding.
The combination of concrete foundations and concrete block retaining back walls, helped us to balance and minimize the quantity of cut and fill and retain the majority of the soil on the site, and as such we maintained the surrounding native bush as much as possible. The elegant steel portal frames, posts and beams together with timber framing was chosen to be the main building structure in order to create the interesting folded cascading form.
After experiencing similar demands on our previous projects, we decided that the dominant material should be Colorsteel roofing and wall cladding. Specifically, we decided to use hidden clip fixing cladding to further eliminate as many penetrations as possible both on the roof and wall cladding.
Additionally, due to the extensive double glazing to capture the view and sun maintaining high thermal performances, it was required to have top quality thermal insulation for the external walls and roof too.
We used natural materials to help blend with the environment.
The flowing cascading home blends and celebrates the natural environment both in its form, style and material choice, it is a hardy celebration of all that is New Zealand.
Contact studio MWA