Strong Architecture for a Big Landscape Defines Country Retreat

Rusted corrugated iron creates a weathered patina that helps to define the bold, modern form of this farmhouse retreat designed by Herbst Architects.

A retreat in the country is all about going back to nature. But this home in the magnificent Kauaeranga Valley on the Coromandel Peninsula takes the idea more literally than most.

Lance and Nicola Herbst of Herbst Architects were commissioned to design the house for a couple who work in the film industry. Because the pair are filming on location for long periods of time, they wanted a place where they could retreat between filming assignments.

The site, on 20 hectares of farmland beside the Kauaeranga River, fits the bill perfectly. The land encompasses hills and river banks, and includes a ridgeline with a commanding view of farmland and native bush, which proved an ideal building site.

The strong geometric form of the building was designed to hold its own in the big landscape.
The architects say the clients’ brief called for “a response that engaged with the site in both a filmic and a practical way”.

They say the couple live a life of self-sufficiency while on the land. Their skills extend to growing their own food, animal husbandry and butchery.

“The clients spoke of materials that have a patina of age, sustainability, recycling and adaptive re-use – a provenance of materials.

“Our response was to concentrate the small mass of building that the brief determined into a singular geometric form that could hold its own in the big landscape. We positioned the form straddling the ridgeline – it engages with the slope at the high end and floats above the land as it falls away.”

The architects drew from the vernacular of rusty, corrugated iron sheds prevalent in the district, cladding the house in a “rainscreen” of rusted corrugated iron sheets, which they describe as a “rural camouflage of sorts”.

In keeping with the sustainable design brief, the building is make largely or recycled materials and fittings, which the clients procured over the duration of the build.

Special features of the interior include exposed, barn-style trusses in the double-height living area. This is glazed on three sides so it resembles a floating glass pavilion. A second floor at one end of the house accommodates the bedroom and a separate bathroom.