Emerald Bluffs House, the latest offering by New Zealand's RTA Studio, is burrowed into the idyllic landscape just outside of Lake Wanaka in the country's Central Otago region.
The scenic location was paramount to the project's design. Huddled within a protected nature preservation zone, the hillside site was both a challenge and an opportunity for the architects. Benched into the schist rock, the house's stone base 'drives out of the ground' to create a 'new landscape,' explains RTA Studio founder Richard Naish. Stemming both from the drama of its setting and the area's strict regulations, the design reflects the architects' sensitive approach.
Welcoming guests through a heavy subterranean doorway, the house immediately signifies shelter and refuge. Inside, a staircase slips alongside an inglenook fireplace, digging into the rock and inviting ascension to the timber and glass pavilion atop. Housing the major living functions, the linear layout of the first floor engages views in all directions, wrapping the house in its natural surroundings. The living room looks straight out north, through the trees, towards Lake Wanaka. The bedroom vistas on the other side span southwards over the nearby Treble Cone ski area and Mount Roy.
The client - a professional couple with two adult children - wanted a private home that would both highlight its environment and respect it through low operational energy use. The architects obliged: the internal timber skin both dispels the need for plasterboard and warmly envelopes the interior, while the schist rock is both environmentally sourced and camouflages the new form into its surrounding geology. Furthermore, highly efficient heat pump and solar PV heating - coupled with on-site storm water and sewage management - demonstrate the team's commitment to sustainability.
Naish founded RTA Studio in 1999, which has since grown to win over 60 local and international awards. Currently involved in many high-quality residential projects around the country, the Emerald Bluffs House exemplifies the practice's architectural approach for buildings that sit in true harmony with their context.