Te Kohanga, Waiheke

Te Kohanga means nest in Maori. It symbolizes home, shelter, but also implies a precariousness of perch. Te Kohanga is all these things as it sits hanging over a 40 metre cliff.

By Wendy Shacklock and Paul Clarke, in association 2014, Waiheke Island

The brief was for a nest, Te Kohanga, and all that that implies for home and security, but also a nod to the precarious nature of the site. It is a permanent home; two bedrooms with a third multi-use space. The house was required to protect from the cold southerly winds, contain surprises and be capable of entertaining large groups.

The response was to create a house that had depth and presence. The view is managed and divided so as not to overwhelm the house. We have infinity, a busy middle distance across the bay, and deep contemplative pools in the foreground. The house reveals itself gradually, offering little surprises along the way.

A long in-situ concrete wall provides the main sheltering axis. The public and private realms focus on the ocean or bay views respectively. The dining box cantilevers out to engage directly with the cliff; one can perch and see over the edge of the nest straight down to the waves breaking over the rocks, a school of kingfish or even stingray frequently spotted in the clear blue green pools.

The kitchen is a dynamic space which projects out to the adjacent bay and the morning courtyard. Guests can sit around the kitchen island whilst still engaging with the view. The courtyard is tightly contained by a drywall of Waiheke rock and a gnarly pohutakawa. It is shared by the main bedroom suite with the shower opening directly onto it for easy access from the garden or sea.

The main living space is a heady volume perfect for entertaining which can spill out onto the verandah. In contrast, the media/office/extra sleeping room, is a cosy withdrawn space perfect for relaxing.

The materiality and form reflect the nested interior as the long concrete wall branches across the site under the draped canopy of the folded copper roof.

Awards 2015 NZIA Local Award for Architecture, Housing Photography by Sam Hartnett