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Herbst Architects, New Zealand, has been creating homes that maximize the potential of an indoor-outdoor lifestyle, making the most of living landscapes, for twenty years.

“What is the best way to live and feel connected to the New Zealand landscape and climate?” This is one of the questions Lance and Nicola Herbst have been striving to answer since establishing their office in 2000.

© Simon Wilson 

The duo met while studying architecture at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and immigrated to New Zealand before founding Herbst Architects, based in Auckland.

Since then, they have completed a wide range of award-winning residential, commercial, and educational work. Starting with one of their first projects: their own bach (holiday home) on Great Barrier Island, for which they received an Institute of Architects Award.

© Simon Wilson 

Today, Lance and Nicola Herbst have two recent designs that further demonstrate their positive and significant contribution to the built environment: Omata Beach House and Dune House.

Modernist beauty

The former, accessed by a small dirt road, is a converted former beach house on a secluded bay on the Northland coast. It is bordered by Pohutukawas and surrounded by steep hills covered in native bush.

The design started with a practical aspect: to provide protection from weather events. Because the land had a steep slope, with large rocks, the architects put in a multi-level rock dike and made a stone base that raises the house above sea level. The dunes were also reshaped to give it an organic look.

They then designed the house in three basic elements: living, sleeping, and storage.

© Simon Wilson 

The pavilion part is a light wooden structure with glass that looks like a floating roof. Its curved shape softens the impact of the house and elevates the views of the panorama from the living spaces. All around, spaced wooden slats and sliding doors provide protection from wind and sun. An outdoor kitchen is added to provide outdoor dining near a large concrete fireplace. In this type of design, the architects use a Hawaiian term, “lanai,” defining a space that is neither inside nor outside.

Dune landscape

The second is equally so. Nestled along the east coast of New Zealand, Dune House celebrates the dunes, covered with the native plant Muehlenbeckia. The project consists of two rooms and two small independent structures, connected by a walkway that links the spaces.

© Simon Wilson 
© Simon Wilson 
© Simon Wilson 

It is located two hundred meters from the high-water mark, in accordance with local regulations, and has a panoramic view of the ocean. The house has a simple rectangular shape, clad with a light rainscreen of wooden slats. The upper edge is sharply cut to mimic the skyline, while the curved lower part reflects the surrounding landforms. It is built on stilts to maximize the view, while avoiding a two-story structure. Another fine example of modern architecture, respectful of the environment. 

New Zealand

Nathalie Dassa