PROJECT STAGE Completed 2012
PROJECT TEAM Charissa Snijders & Assemble; Steve Davis and Callum Freeman
CONTRACTOR Haven Waiheke
STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS Thorne Dwyer Structures
PHOTOGRAPHER Peter Rees Photography


2014 NZ Wood Resene Timber Design Awards, The Gatekeeper, Category 1
Highly commended

NZ Wood Resene Timber Design Awards
The Gatekeeper, Category 5

Client reference

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In this design, both client and architect sought to acknowledge the special qualities of the land and its relationship to the new home. It was important to the client that they create a home that sat quietly and sympathetically with the land. They also wanted it to respond to its wildness, particularly the wind!

A Maori proverb helped to express these qualities and became the guide that inspired them to connect, weave and shape the home with the land. Also inspired by the analogy of a Maori pa on the hill, the design adopts a collection of small buildings, each with its own use and held together by the natural and man-made terracing. Comfortably nestling into the hill the low-lying buildings quietly survey the surrounding landscape and stunning sea views.

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Whakarongo ake au
Ki te tangi a te mau nei
Tui tui
Tui tuia
Tuia i runga
Tuia i raro
Tuia i roto
Tuia i waho
Ti he mauri ora

I listen to the cry of the bird
The tui
Those things from above
Those things from below
Those things within us
Bind together, stitch together,
weave together
Those things around us
Behold the sacred breath of life



The overall feel of the place is timeless and understated, creating a sense of permanence through the careful selection of materials, colour and proportions. Local Waiheke stone, external ply walls in various tones of the stone, to concrete floors that echo the sandy beaches below and carefully considered timbers weave seamlessly together. To enhance the natural timbers, The Natural House ‘Osmo Polyx Hardwax’ was applied to walls, ceilings and doors. The house is designed for passive solar gain, has solar hot water heating, rainwater collection and a Biolytix wastewater system. Low-toxic finishes were used wherever possible.

There is no real back or front to the house; each has a purpose. To the south the strong Waiheke stone wall holds the house into the land and acts as a welcoming arm that guides you into the beckoning vista of the sea beyond. An internal ‘breathing’ courtyard at the entrance brings in light and natural ventilation; very useful when the wind becomes fierce – as one can still open the doors and feel connected to outside.

When entering this home, one feels immediately relaxed and inspired. A welcoming and uplifting place, this home stands proudly as gatekeeper to a very special slice of Waiheke Island.