K Valley House
Appearing as a rust-red box in the New Zealand landscape, K Valley House is a place of retreat for its clients, between grassland and sky.
Af Jennifer McMaster
Designed by Herbst Architects, this project is situated amidst the lush Coromandel Peninsula, on New Zealand’s North Island. K Valley House sits inland, on twenty hectares of rural pasture. The terrain varies from peaks to valleys, with the Kauaeranga River – referenced in the project’s name – snaking its way through the property. Vistas overlook farmland, bush and sky.
Within this expansive natural setting, K Valley House reads as a clear and concise object. From afar, the form is striking, with corrugated cladding emblazoned against the deep green bush. This bold material choice, described by Herbst Architects as ‘a rural camouflage of sorts,’ gives the house just enough presence in this vast landscape.
The clients for the house both work in the film industry and spend much of their time away on location. K Valley House was devised as a retreat from their busy schedule, a place where they could live simply and self-sufficiently.
In response to this, Herbst Architects have designed a house that is both dramatic and pragmatic. In essence, K Valley House is based on a reductive diagram of lightness meeting mass. However, in this case, Herbst Architects have kept the ground plane transparent and light, placing a floating box above.
Downstairs, the space is screened by timber-framed doors and reaches out into the landscape on three sides. This gesture speaks of freedom and a joyful, exuberant connection to the outdoors.
Up above, the sleeping box maintains a solid, impenetrable feel. The singular, corrugated box is kept pure and contained by operable flaps, which fold out to admit light.
This degree of architectural conviction is also reflected in K Valley House’s organization. The plan follows a simple, spartan ethic that gives the building its rigor. The downstairs space is open plan, with a small step in section creating a sunken lounge. A joyous double-height void over these spaces offsets the small floor plate. Upstairs, a loft space, bedroom, and bathroom nestle between the rafters.
The materials used across K Valley House use a vernacular palette of rusted metal, honeyed plywood, and raw timber. Many of the materials were gathered by the clients and were deliberately chosen to patina with age. Sustainability, recycling, and repurposing were prioritized, and have resulted in a tapestry of tones and textures.
Throughout K Valley House, the construction is direct and legible, with exposed cross-bracing and bolts expressing their purpose. Many materials, such as the exposed blockwork surrounding the fireplace, are left in their natural, unadorned state.
This eclectic quality is perhaps what lends K Valley House much of its warmth and charm. Despite being an exacting and highly regarded piece of architecture – it recently won New Zealand’s Home of the Year Award – it has a uniquely cozy, ramshackle quality.
In many ways, K Valley House is a study in contrasts – it merges the clean lines and planning of a modernist ethic with the unpretentiousness of a rural shed. In doing so, Herbst Architects have struck a brilliant balance between crispness and texture, the hard lines of new architecture and the soft, worn lines of weathered materials. As a consequence, K Valley House is both a beautiful architectural gesture and a welcoming, homely experience.