When architects Lance and Nicky Herbst were shown the two small portable buildings their client had bought on a whim off the Trade Me website, their hearts initially sank. In front of them stood a pair of unremarkable cabins – the starting point of a commission to craft a weekend retreat. What has become known as a Herbst Architects’ trademark now hovers lightly over the heart of this island escape. A butterfly roof, supported by six columns, is the sculptural element of a timber exoskeleton that lends an industrial, no-frills nature to the design. Such is the architects’ skill that it’s now hard to distinguish the cabins from the whole. This composite of old and new has been named the Go-Go bach. This is not in reference to the dancing that sometimes occurs spontaneously here, but instead harks back to the on-the-move nature of the two original structures that bookend the home. This room, neither indoors nor out, operates like a breezeway, sheltered by a translucent roof with a layer of battens to filter the sun.
Slivers of greenery can be seen in the apertures created by the roof enhancing the sense of connection. Sliding Shoji screens on the north side provide protection from the wind and also serve, when opened, to mask the cabins. A timber-batten screen has been used internally to preserve privacy between the central living space and the bedrooms, while new bi-fold doors inserted in the other cabin concertina open to link the kitchen to this area. Anchoring the space was an important part of the thinking. “We wanted to create a strong, solid edge,” says Nicky, “and give the occupants something to congregate around.” The Herbsts achieved this heft with a gabion-basket wall filled with stones from the Waiheke quarry, that runs the length of the southern side. A fireplace is set into the wall backed by a sheet of metal; behind this substantial feature, is a wet room with hand-basin and rain-head shower.
The original decks attached to the cabins were demolished and new ones rebuilt. These protrude into the central area to act as bench seating. While the first concept was to leave the ‘Go-Gos’ untouched, plans change. The kitchen was revamped, a sliding wall between it and the tiny living space removed, and the entire cabin lined in thick plywood veneer - walls, floor and ceiling. “A friend of the clients has a composite flooring business and he sold it to him for a very good price,” explains Lance. This material wrap has changed the character of the space. “It feels like a cave that the family could retreat to when the weather’s bad.” A wood burner was the natural choice on a property where firewood falls from the trees like manna from heaven.
Text by Claire McCall from her book: "Green Modern, Eco Conscious Contemporary New Zealand Homes."
1. Western red cedar batten rain screen
2. Kwila decking
3. Gabion baskets by Maccaferi hand packed with selected stone
4. Mild steel fire place backing
5. Fibre glass sheet sliding shutters
6. Ampelite Perma glass Opal corrugate fibre glass roof
7. All Proof Industries purpose made drain outlets
8. External fireplace: "Firth Super Room Warmer"