A Spectacular Central Otago Home That Retreats Into The Landscape

The owners of this site in Bannockburn, Central Otago (New Zealand’s most inland region, located in the southern half of the South Island) engaged Bergendy Cooke to design a home where they could eventually retire. 

The architect’s response was driven by the unique site, which offers stunning views of Kawarau Gorge and the client’s existing vineyard, while also being exposed to often harsh climatic conditions. A timeless solution was devised, adopting a refined and ‘pure’ architectural form, reminiscent of Portuguese architects Álvaro Siza, Eduardo Souto de Moura, and Aires Mateus’ work. 

‘Although New Zealand has a strong history of timber construction, the site demanded something equally robust and that aged over time, so it became itself embedded in the landscape,’ explains Bergendy. ‘I have always had a tendency to be inspired by both sculpture and architecture that draws from a limited palette and language. It was important to not over complicate the forms, as this would be too challenging for the site, and we would have been defeated.’

The material palette incorporates subtly-coloured, precast concrete panels; oiled and weathered steel panels (referencing historic mining huts up the gorge); and pebbles on the roof that appear part of the existing environment.

A central courtyard and outdoor areas to the home’s east and west offer a variety of experiences to suit different climatic conditions. The former is a lush retreat – an inviting contrast to the otherwise desert-like surrounds dotted with wild thyme and rose hip.

The interiors are designed to appear handmade, with imperfections showcased in the Tasmanian oak panelling and ‘burnt off’ concrete floors coloured by Peter Fell. ‘This finish also paid homage to Geoffrey Bawa, whose work, although contemporary, always embraced the expertise of local artisans,’ says Bergendy.

Bergendy is most proud of the spectacular building’s relationship to the land, being hunkered down and modest in its character. She intends for the home to blend even further into the landscape over time, almost disappearing into the site’s historic mining tailings. 

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