A Winner In The Wilderness

In the mountain beech forest surrounding Arthur’s Pass, on a 3,000 hectare nature reserve and high country Merino sheep station, is Wilderness Lodge. Here there is a strong emphasis on conservation to ensure the survival of rare and endangered flora and fauna. Guests have a rare opportunity to explore and experience the unsurpassed beauty of this natural paradise. Owners Dr Gerry McSweeney and Anne Saunders were keen to expand the well established lodge (built in 1996) by adding four luxury units. Their vision, the inspiration of architect Gary Hopkinson and the craftsmanship of builder Chris Yeats resulted in Chris winning the title “2005 Registered Master Builder of the year - Commercial.” A well deserved result which was achieved despite environmental and weather constraints for all concerned.

The project brief required four new guest units to be located on a hillside, overlooking a glade in the beech forest, with magnificent views of the Southern Alps beyond. Each unit was to have unimpeded views but was also required to offer privacy to guests. To minimise the impact and protect the integrity of the existing forest landscape the units were “stacked” with the lower unit being excavated into the hillside reducing the overall height.
Gary Hopkinson, architect, has a special affinity with New Zealand’s West Coast and this is confirmed by the judges comment, “This building blends into the landscape so effortlessly, it could almost have grown from the ground it sits on.” In addition the judges credit the skills of builder Chris Yeats, “The builder has exhibited extreme attention to detail, innovation and organisation in testing circumstances. Despite the building process the surrounding landscape is untouched. This faultless property is a truly magnificent piece of construction.”

A result, Gary Hopkinson attributes to, “A close working relationship between client, contractor and architect.”

The exterior design was kept relatively austere using simple forms created with horizontal and vertical colorsteel®. The intent being to emulate the “feel” of the iconic New Zealand bush hut. A limited pallet of muted green in contrast to natural oiled timber echoes the beech forest surrounds.

The units are divided by a stairway which enhances the “outdoor” ambience and offers entry shelter, separation and privacy to guests.

Whilst the exterior may reflect the raw character of the New Zealand West Coast the interior introduces guests to a world of sumptuous creature comforts. A cosy refuge in this mountainous retreat.

Each unit has uninterrupted views of the mountain divide from the bed (elevated on a plinth),  the lounge and bathroom facilities. From the double glazing, the gas fired heating and high spec fittings this project offers absolute comfort and luxury to guests.

Chris Yeats began work with excavation of the site while panels were being pre-cast in Greymouth. The weather was unreliable with several heavy snowfalls slowing progress and making access from Greymouth difficult. The building site was in the hillside, with a tanked retaining wall forming the rear wall of the building. The concrete wall panels were sized by the design engineer to the constraints of a 30-tonne crane, and its positioning on site, then built in Greymouth and transported to the site via Arthur's Pass where they were lifted into place. This was particularly difficult, with no drive-on access to the site, requiring all materials, including the pre-cast panels, to be craned in from an access point above the site.

The extensive Colorsteel® Endura roof and cladding was supplied and fixed by Stratco. “We took great pride in our involvement with this project,” says Mark Moore of Stratco. “The cladding and flashing system was innovative and involved but the result superb.” 

Due to rain and snow the wall framing, while kiln dried, needed considerable heating to dry once the building was closed in. Despite the weather the buildings were completed in the contract period of four months.

A tribute to all concerned.
Clients: Dr Gerry McSweeney and Anne Saunders. Wilderness Lodge

Architect: Gary Hopkinson
Hopkinson Team Architecture,
Telephone: 03 768 4141
Fax: 03 768 5922

Building: Contractor and winner of the 2005 Registered Master Builder of the year - Commercial.
Chris Yeats
Chris Yeats Builders Ltd.
Telephone: 762 6040
Fax: 762 6090

Engineer: John Mackenzie of ELMAC Consulting.
Telephone: 03 351 3223

Manufacturer cladding & roofing: Stratco (NZSI) Ltd.
Roofing & Cladding Contractor: Stratco (NZSI) Ltd.
55 Hands Road, Christchurch.
Telephone: (03) 338 9063
Mobile: 021495533
Profile: Corrugate.
Color: Colorsteel® Endura Rivergum.

Phographer: Stewart Nimmo.