The brief called for a painting studio for an artist on a southeast sloping site in the lee of Bluff Hill, Napier. The Client’s practice required a purpose-built space for both conceptual development and execution of painted works.

Considerable dialogue between architect and Client centred on the difference between daylight and sunlight and the advantages to an artist of a south-facing aspect. The Client’s wish was for a simple, private and contemplative volume in which light quality took precedence over quantity.

Early discussions prior to purchasing the property had centred on siting. The topography necessitated a stepped form, while the corner morphology suggested the opportunity to employ the building to effect enclosure of the sunnier garden side of the site from the busy street. Floor level changes acknowledge the sectional parti of the adjacent 120 year old dwelling and were set at a height to function as flexible working surfaces from floor to floor.

From the street, the building reads as pure sculptural form. Windows are eliminated, orienting the building inward. The ‘hinging’ of the roof plane facilitates admission and emission of light depending on the time of day.

The resulting three level studio manifests as an extruded analogue of the requirements of brief, site and light conditions. Lateral structural frames were incorporated at intervals as the floor level step and box beam, while the vertical column elements of the portals were manifest to the exterior, allowing uninterrupted full-length interior hanging walls.

A subtle balance is achieved between diffuse and reflected light. Translucent south facing skylights invite diffuse light, reflected off the ceiling to wash the walls, while the large windows opposite balance this with the colours of the illuminated garden. These complimentary diurnally shifting light sources provide a consistently calm and accurate rendering of colour and texture.  

The studio opens fully at its ends to courtyards, via a recessed building envelope. The northern facade protects a sheltered sunny outdoor area it shares with the adjacent dwelling, while the southern opens onto a paved vehicle court. Natural ventilation occurs up through the building, exiting through high windows in the north facade. During the summer months, the large sliding windows open to facilitate a working platform at the edge of the garden. In accord with the linear building form, the process of making – from concept to gallery – occurs in this ‘open tube’.

June 2011

Main Contractor: Briggs Builders Ltd.

Construction: August 2009 – May 2010

Structural Engineer: Phillip Paterson M.I.P.E.N.Z.  Powell Fenwick Consultants, Christchurch.

The project received an  NZ Institute of Architects Gisborne Hawke’s Bay Architecture Award in November 2011, and The New Zealand Architecture (National) Award in April 2012.

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Photographs ©Richard Brimer 2011 & Paul McCredie

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