Details Matter

Architect Gary Hopkinson has become renowned for his innovative approach to architecture on, but not limited to, the West Coast of New Zealand with a portfolio of award winning assignments to his credit. Two of his recent holiday retreats are shown illustrating his empathy with client, environment and materials and both were winners in the NZIA Resene Local awards for architecture.

Gary somewhat modestly describes his initial practice on the West Coast as, “Being a bit like the family doctor, very much generalists however in recent years our focus has been on recreation and tourism. We enjoy and respond well to environmentally sensitive and robust sites. The domestic projects usually have lower budgets but high owner expectations, which requires careful cost management and design methodology.”

Gary is careful to draw a distinction here between a “budget” house and a house designed to a budget. These are not budget homes.

Both holiday retreats illustrate a refreshing design simplicity that, to some extent, is a reflection of purpose. The origins of these simple forms were developed by Hopkinson Architecture to enable prefabricated modules to be air lifted onto difficult sites. In some instances sites were used by clients as camp sites and it was considered appropriate to reflect a cluster of tent like structures, the theme being carried through to separate sleeping and living modules.
Given that these homes are second homes Hopkinson Architecture finds clients more open to experimentation offering greater latitude to the design process.
“ Obviously such facilities as outside toilets, showers and cook areas would not be welcomed in city dwellings,”says Gary,“ but clients respond positively to such innovations in a holiday environment.”

“We are fortunate that with our history, and accord with the West Coast, we have a steady stream of clients who are familiar with, and appreciate, both our work and philosophy which generally means we are on the same wave length form day one.”

Perhaps a hallmark of Hopkinson's work is the ability to create architecture that is in harmony with its location. The combination of form, materials and colour all contribute to recede the presence of structure. The limited palette was initially architect driven and has gained client approval through exposure in the media.

The choice of building materials is driven by a variety of factors: Location, setting, cost, aesthetics and client preference. Gary notes a considerable change in attitude, over many years, towards the use of corrugate from an “agricultural” material to one that has become something of a fashion choice. Perhaps to its detriment! With some caution he notes that corrugate is not suited to all locations and requires very specific detailing. “Over the past 10 years we have developed our own system of detailing and designing with corrugate and the results have encouraged mainstream use. We are careful not to recommend steel unless our clients understand the cladding may have to be replaced during the buildings lifetime and the building is detailed accordingly.

Our home designs reflect known practical issues and lack eaves that reduces the risk of corrosion on unwetted areas. This in turn introduces design challenges for ventilation and shade.
On the West Coast we  compensate for high heat loss
(particularly where there are large glazed areas in conjunction with steel) with higher levels of insulation and double-glazing. Where sub floors are exposed the underside is lined to restrict heat loss and where possible a heat mass is built within the structure to absorb energy.

The two homes illustrated are particularly successful in achieving a positive relationship with their locations. Careful design and specification is demonstrated in the skilled use of corrugate which Gary Hopkinson stresses is the key to the product usage. “Corrugate is an aesthetically pleasing material to work with but should not be regarded as a replacement to traditional materials such as plaster and wood. Each choice must be appropriate to the location.”
Brickell Pollock

The Brickell Pollock holiday house is situated on a rural /residential site at Bethell's Beach overlooking the coastal valley and Tasman Sea. The sleeping and living pavilions, each with decks positioned for morning sun, are nestled in a Kanuka forest and linked by a covered breezeway. With careful detailing the windows dissolve the barrier between inside and out.

The tent like Ironsand Colorsteel structures reflect a history of camping on the site and the massive sand dunes in the valley below. Expansive decks to the east and west allow outside living to follow the sun and ensure shelter from the prevailing wind.

The furniture and furnishings pick up on the hoop pine wall lining and joinery theme, created by the architect, to maximise the warmth and ambience of the interior.  
The jury for the Auckland NZIA Awards noted that the Brickell Pollock house was a “modest holiday house carefully sited in the West Coast bush, it comprises two building blocks, one containing the living area, the other the bedroom and ablutions. A simple L shape configuration provides a sheltered outdoor living space to the North East. The fully glazed walls to the South West maximises both the view to the beach in the distance and the trees in the foreground resulting in the living area feeling like it is suspended above the bush. Simple materials are articulated with modest means.

Tata Beach House .

This rural retreat set on a farmlet overlooking Golden Bay was designed to suit the needs of the extended family. An enclosed deck that also serves as an entry courtyard separates two distinct pavilions, one for the teenage family and friends and one for the parents.

The approach to the house screens the views until the “front door” is opened to reveal the stunning seascape. Extended wing walls and careful window detailing dissolve the junction between the ceiling and sky defining the linear views.

The owners specified a single level house with a low profile that would recede into its rural location. New denim blue Colorsteel was the material of choice, the blue/grey cladding fading into the blue green shadows of the pine forest backdrop.
The Jury for the Nelson NZIA awards noted, “A theatrical entry onto a central deck introduces a spectacular coastal view, and separates this house into two pavilions. The building is simply planned and incorporates carefully detailed hard wearing materials that reinforce the casual nature of holiday living.”

Architect: Gary Hopkinson
Hopkinson Teamarchitecture,
Telephone: 03 768 4141
Fax: 03 768 5922

Client: Brickell Pollock
Builder: Murray Coombes
Telephone: 09 8109058.
Roofing and Cladding Profile: Corrugate.
Colour: Colorsteel® Ironsand

Client: Tata Beach House
Builder: House Building Company,
Roofing and Cladding Profile: Corrugate.
Colour: Colorsteel®
New Denim Blue