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Glamuzina Paterson Architects

Lake Hawea Courtyard House

The Courtyard House is grounded in rural land at the foot of Mount Maude in the Otago region. The house is an enquiry into where a site begins and ends – how to define the edges of the project and the way that landscape may be inhabited. Firmly dug into the earth, its low form and simple square plan recalls the modest language of early settler buildings in the region that utilize low slung, stone construction to deal with the extreme environment. This idea of a singular form clad with simple materials, drove the exploration into the material and formal qualities of the house.

In their written brief the clients requested “a building not built on a domestic scale, that might have been part of a bigger building that sits on the ground with weight and permanence”.  The couple planned to retire to the house so spaces were described by unusual titles, such as the quiet room and the music room that represented their respective hobbies.

The brick armour of the Courtyard façade wraps the house and large central courtyard, framing views to the lofty mountains and low plains. Living, dining and sleeping spaces occupy the northern and eastern edges, favouring the predominant direction of the sun, while niches and overhangs in the building envelope protect it from the hot, dry summers and harsh winters.

The courtyard bunkered in the landscape responds to the immediate context within which it is placed and allows the building to address continuous enclosure and protection from the prevailing north east wind. The use of rusticated bricks creates a material relationship with the site, and anchors it firmly to the ground, along with a textural palette that allows for a constantly shifting interpretation of scale. The strategies of shifting roof planes and concrete floor plates enables the house to articulate the relationship of form to land, this in turn is mediated by a plinth that is expressed as a low recessed wall wrapping around the building connecting the mass to the ground and acting as an organizational tool for apertures.

As Ted McCoy once commented: “The good thing about isolation [is that] one had to learn for oneself, by looking at surroundings.” The courtyard house reflects these values.