A Little Bit Of Country

There is a quiet but reassuring air of confidence surrounding architect Graham Pitts whose design expertise only came to our attention when his work, entered by Micheal Lieshout, won New Zealand Master Builders Auckland Category 7 for New Homes 2005. Generally Graham shuns the idea of publishing his work or entering for awards and relies on referrals from a well established and loyal client base.

Prior to this commission, to design the Hobbs Residence, Graham had a well established working relationship with the owners Carol and Ian Hobbs having completed two earlier projects for them.

A Pauanui seaside home and the renovation of a workshop and small rural dwelling. Both requiring a very different approach to that of the proposed new home at Bombay. This earlier work provided an invaluable insight. “Having developed a relationship spanning about 10 years you gain some mutual understandings,” says Graham. “Building this empathy with a client’s needs is the basic parameter required to realise an architectural solution.”

The brief was informal and flexible. Carol Hobbs recalls, “We met Graham on site and sat in the open field discussing our thoughts, dreams, aspirations, the site and weather considerations.”

The basic requirements for the home were established. A single level with four bedrooms to accommodate guests, family and grandchildren, two bathrooms and generous garaging for Ian’s toys: A Merc, a Harley, a Truck, a Gym and Workshop
Graham’s approach to design falls into two distinct priorities; the working function between spaces and the position of the home on the site as it relates to the elements and responds to the landscape. Establishing the plan of spatial relationships satisfying the brief is the first step which precedes any fixed concept of the exterior. His experience indicates that generally women understand best the working mechanics of how the home functions whereas men tend to be more concerned with the exterior aesthetic.

“One of the nice things about designing a country home is the relationship to the environment without the constraints of tight urban sections or town planning restrictions.

In the instance of the Hobbs home it was intuitive to design reflecting the flowing nature of the immediate landscape and rolling hills beyond. Creating the flowing, almost aerofoil shape of the roof has the added benefit of deflecting the strong and turbulent prevailing wind from the inner courtyard.
The historic use of corrugated iron in New Zealand’s rural settings seemed a natural choice. It is a reflection of Kiwi materials not fashion and combined with Fibre cement sheet seemed a logical choice in response to the situation of the home,”says Graham.
The courtyard features two external corrugate walls which hold the bathrooms of the home. These were inspired by the “old 400 gallon water tanks” which historically featured with many NZ dwellings. This is duplicated in the external shower and is a continuation of “the water tank”theme expressing a whimsical sense of humour.
Graham is careful to design within the natural parameters of a specific environment and material choice is to some extent, a reflection of both location and client some being more adventurous than others. Graham notes that Kiwi’s in general are less inclined to move from convention on the exterior of their homes but are more open to extremes in design options on the interior. This can, in some instances, create issues where styles collide. “The exterior of a home should be reflected in the interior making a seamless transition from the outside to inside.”

“The home is a pleasure to live in and we are very happy with the result,” says Carol who has involved herself in every aspect of the design, building and landscaping process. “The relationship between the areas inside work well as does the homes connection to the outdoors and country lifestyle.”

Graham Pitts, Architect.

Graham reflects on the impact of earlier years when as a student he did an in depth study of the work of Group Architects who broke with the beaux arts traditions and began exploring a distinctly New Zealand style of architecture with a fresh, new awareness of design. Essentially New Zealanders did not like to stand out or be different and demonstrated a community of conservatism. These forebearers broke new ground changing the face of New Zealand architecture by liberating our views of acceptable difference.

In the past having run a small to medium architectural practice employing about seven people Graham now concedes that, for him at least, this approach is not the best means to achieve a satisfied client base. Clients do not want to talk to what is effectively “a front man,” they want to deal with the person who will be hands on, a person who understands their needs and is involved in the creative process. Today Graham  deals with all projects directly and has established a loyal group of clients, some of whom have returned to have four or more homes designed. This personal approach achieves the best and most satisfying result for both client and architect.

Graham’s philosophy is one of simplicity to attain the objectives which meet the clients aspirations and expectations and then to take the client beyond.

The Hobbs home is a fine example of the result that can be achieved when both client and architect are receptive to ideas.

Client: Carol & Ian Hobbs

Architect: Graham Pitts
Telephone: 09 446 1070
Mobile: 021 663 465

Builder: Pukekohe Builders.
Michael Lieshout
Telephone: 09 238 7758

Roofing Manufacturer:
Franklin Long Roofing Ltd
Profile: Corrugate Zincalume®

Roofing Installer:
Franklin Long Roofing Ltd
Mark McCarrick
Telephone: 09 238 9249

Cladding: Titan Board, Otago Schist and Zincalume®