Rakau House

Rakau means tree in Maori. It is the name of the street of this special rear L-shaped site which was dominated by an enormous pear tree and became the focus of our home, Rakau House.

Rakau House is on a rear “L-shaped” site. There is northwesterly access at the intersection of the arms. An extremely large pear tree with historic references dominates the north of the site.

The brief was for a family home in inner Auckland that provided an easy lifestyle for 3 growing children, entertaining, and weekend relaxing.

The constraints of the site presented challenges, which have, in turn, produced an interesting and lively house full of surprises. The response was to develop the house very directionally with strong blank walls at right angles to each other. This device, coupled with an elevated ‘ground’ floor, allows privacy from the driveway and entry, anddevelops strong contrasting personalities within the house. Sun and filtered light are strong features.A solid wall to the north was a brave move that has proven extremely successful with its diffuse light sources.

The planning is expressed in the materiality and solidity of delicately detailed timber wing-walls that focus each room either north to the free rambling garden or west to the courtyard pool. Rooms focus along one or other arm of the L-shaped site, and create interesting links and relationships within the house to rooms with different personalities. Planning relationships are indirect, subtle and enticing. The solid wall to the north of the large living room is handled with shafts of sunlight from above, large airy volumes and vistas in two directions to the sun.

The large pear tree embraces the house and is the focus of the large diningroom and top-storey master bedroom. The tree (Rakau) theme has been emphasised by contrasting the garden types, with a northern lawned garden dominated by the pear, and a tight crisp courtyard to the west.

Award 2005 NZIA Local Award for Architecture, Photography by Simon Devitt