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down the garden path

This pathway to the beach could be the place where the visual expression of local culture comes alive: a place full of colour.

The client lives in the house next door and this is a new rental property. It is an attempt to make a simple building on a tricky but attractive site within tight financial parameters defined by the rental market, and yet still make a real contribution to the urban fabric and the discussion around it.

Colourful beach home exterior

It is a modest house but fuelled by an ambitious idea. Because the client owns both sides of the southern boundary, and consistent with the aspiration for more social interactions in the suburbs, a common garden has been created between the two properties by adding new steps that mirror the existing ones on the southern property. One day, those steps could extend to the bottom of the site and across public land to the beach below.

Blue and white beach home exterior

Orange, white, and blue beach home exterior

This pathway to the beach, or the possibility of it, led to a study of public paths right across the suburb. KebbellDaish mapped the existing paths along with potential new paths that would combine to make a complete pedestrian network, and ultimately a more walkable suburb. These pathways were imaged as a suburban version of an urban laneway. They could provide the primary alternative to road transport and a so-called 'bump space' for social interaction that can't happen in a car. Just as importantly though, they could be the place where the visual expression of local culture comes alive: a place full of colour. That was the intention from the early stages of design.

Orange and blue home exterior

Colourful home exterior

Colour, in this case, is not just the icing on the cake, but the active ingredient in the cake itself. Like the streets of Valparaiso in Chile, colour can establish an atmosphere that fundamentally changes the fabric of the city. The current pathways around Hataitai are functional as far as they exist, and that's great, but they're not inspirational. The paths in Valparaiso are.

Neutral home interior

Neutral kitchen

Suburban laneways, could be the lifeblood of activity – not just in Hataitai, but all over this country's hillside suburbs. They provide an opportunity to stitch neighbours together as they walk about the suburb; they provide sites for shared gardens and kids to play in public spaces without cars; and they're begging for the country's creative community to inject public art into the everyday life of suburban communities.

Neutral beach home interior

Neutral beach home interior 2

Many colour studies were undertaken and the colours worked best when the colours on the exterior began to reflect the overall building composition. Resene Oxygen was chosen as a base colour to fit in with the mostly neutral colours nearby, but there was a desire for parts of the house to ping in the way that flowers on our native Kowhai and Pohutukawa trees do. The aim was not to colour match any of those trees, just embrace the way they can ping. Resene Bluetooth is like a harmonic colour.

Colourful exterior

Orange and blue exterior

Neutral lounge

The balcony and back door are painted in Resene California, then the banding of the Shadowclad is finished in a slightly stronger blue around the sides using Resene Bluetooth in line with the balcony. The fascia and battens are in Resene White, something like a space between words, all painted with Resene Sonyx 101 semi-gloss waterborne enamel. The decking and handrails are finished in Resene Furniture and Decking Oil.

The interior is kept neutral with plasterboard walls in white using Resene Zylone Sheen in the main areas and Resene SpaceCote in bathrooms and plywood ceilings, soffits and tongue and groove walls finished in Resene Qristal Clear polyurethane.

Suggesting to a client that they open their land to passers-by is not easy. However, they supported the necessary architectural gestures that enable a private, semi-public, or public pathway to be put in place in the future. This tension between the individual and collective hovers over much contemporary architecture, and we think the discussion is vital to contemporary practice. This project is just part of that discussion.

This house, and this idea, spurred some collaborative research between KebbellDaish and a researcher at the Otago University School of Public Health, Jenny Ombler, which was published as a chapter of a book, Designing for Health & Wellbeing: Home, City, Society, published by Vernon Press. This explains the public health benefits of not just making extra pathways, but of making walking a desirable way to travel, and colour plays no small part in this.

This little pathway and the larger network of paths it helps us all imagine, suggests a much higher density population than the current 33 pph. To explore further possibilities a project was undertaken with six Master of Architecture students at the Wellington School of Architecture to develop additional infrastructure (like cycleways and elevators), more public buildings (like a library and cultural centre), and higher density housing that takes advantage of sites that could be opened up by these new pathways.

This project was exhibited at the Seoul Biennale for Architecture and Urbanism last year. The largest architectural event in the Asia-Pacific region, with around 450,000 visitors.

At one level this project is a colourful but modest house, but at another level this project is not just a house. It is a project that includes a house, but one that enables us to radically re-imagine large swathes of contemporary cities as walkable, social and colourful.

Resene Bluetooth

Architectural specifier: KebbellDaish
Associate architect: Architecture Lab
Building contractor: MHR Builders
Painting contractor: DP Painting & Waterproofing
Painting advice: Peter Adsett
Photographer: Andy Spain
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2020

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