Valley House by AO Architecture


AO Architecture

AO Architecture




Christchurch, New Zealand

Project Description

Located in a peaceful valley with birdsong the only sound that breaks the silence, the concrete brutalist form is both contrasting and yet complimentary to the setting it resides in. A new two-level home holds living on the top level to make the most of the view over the leafy tree canopies, down the valley over greater Christchurch.
The clients main focus was to achieve permanence in construction and timelessness in design resulting in a house that could be passed down the family generations. While concrete is not a sustainable material in terms of the energy to produce it does have an inherent sustainable aspect in terms of its longevity. The least sustainable practice in construction is demolition and this house will last through many lifetimes. The concrete also provides safety from the cliff face in event of an earthquake.
The site previously held an existing earthquake damaged two-level house with a concrete drive taking up all of the north facing outdoor living. It was also a very tight section closed in by the tree lined open waterway on the eastern side and a rock faced cliff in the western side. The design responds by relocating the drive to the southern end providing both privacy and protection with the only link to the road being over a bridge and also hugging the cliff which both provides protection from rockfall as well as some stunning views of the basalt rock.

Design Features and Creative Solutions

Butted up against a rugged basalt cliff face, the house offers an unusual perspective, taking into account the dominating landscape of rock and bush—and, on a good day, views out over Christchurch to the Southern Alps beyond. Simplicity and minimalism has been sought so to that end it has been kept only to concrete and glass, That led to the development of a facade punctured by floor-to-ceiling glazing across both levels of the two-storeyed home, creating a solid form with glazing carved out of it across every aspect—from the garaging to the glass front door, which offers sightlines through the structure to the defining basalt rock behind. The board-formed cast concrete creates a rough, raw aesthetic that fits well with the rugged cliff face behind. When the sun casts light on it, the facade is ever-changing due to the very textured finish, as it is at night when illuminated or in shadow.
Entry to the home is by way of a full height glass door that opens into an entrance area. To the right, a gallery-style hallway defined by a concrete floor and full height bookshelves leads to the second and third bedrooms. A U-stair defined by its minimalist timber treads also ascends from the entrance, behind which double-height glazing takes in a confronting view of the detailed rock face immediately behind. Here, a waterfall was designed to run gracefully over the jutted rock, illuminated at night by subtle lighting. Arriving on the upper level, the palette is warm and natural with the pared-back notion as evident here as on the exterior, The state of the art systems that compliment the air tight construction and high level of insulation have been hidden behind custom elements to further the minimalist aspect the home is trying to achieve.
In a fast paced ever changing world this home aims to create a sense of permanence and peacefulness.

Text provided by the architect

THE TREE MAG – The Fruits of Ideas