Getting heavy

There is an honourable tradition in New Zealand home design that strives for lightness, of timber homes resting lightly on the land. I remember my French teacher at high school saying that when she returned to New Zealand after many years in France, the homes in New Zealand looked as if they could all blow away in the next breeze.

One of the finalists in this year's Home of the Year award makes a case for the European sort of solidity my teacher was referring to. The house is by Stevens Lawson Architects (who won the award with their house by Lake Wanaka, which you can see in an earlier post), built for clients who requested concrete for its heft and its low-maintenance qualities. These photographs by Mark Smith show just how solid this home turned out to be. It is located on a harbourside site in Auckland's eastern suburbs. The elevation below faces the water, with the main bedroom on the upper right, the kitchen and dining space below it, and a covered sitting area extending off the living room on the left-hand-side of this image:

The house is just as sculptural at the entrance, at the bottom of a very steep driveway. This shot gives you a good view of the central 'canyon', a glass-topped, double-height hallway that drags light into the centre of the home. (The house is located beside a slope to the north that blocks sunlight for a few hours in the winter, hence the design of the glass-topped volume to admit more light).

The home was designed using pre-cast concrete panels that feature ribbed details best viewed in this shot of the southern elevation:

The monumental exterior means some of the interiors are just as dramatic. This view shows the inside of the 'canyon' with its glass-topped roof. The timber feature is a 'bridge' across this double-height space.
This shot looks from the dining area across to a living room which in turn opens onto the covered exterior sitting area you can see in the first shot of this post. Inside, the material palette has been kept to a simple combination of timber and concrete with slate floors.
Some of the rooms feature surprising and dramatic devices for admitting light, such as the space in the shot below, which can be used as a home theatre or a snug, cave-like hideaway (there is also a slow window looking out to the water just out of the right-hand-side of the frame). The home may seem intimidatingly hefty from the outside, but as you can see, the interior offers a wide range of views and experiences.

So there you have it - an unashamedly heavyweight house. Sure, it runs contrary to the New Zealand timber tradition, but its engagement with the uniquely New Zealand landscape around it means it doesn't feel as if this is anything other than a New Zealand house.

Our new masthead - and cover!

Our next cover, which you'll see on newsstands from October 11, features our revised masthead, which you can see in the image above (the house is by Andrea Bell of Pete Bossley Architects).

A couple of months ago we decided that our previous masthead no longer fit as cohesively as we would like with the rest of the magazine. When art director Miranda Dempster started work here about 18 months ago, she introduced a family of rounded, friendly-looking fonts that she felt softened the harder edges of some of the architecture we feature, and enhanced the magazine's sense of approachability. Once she did this, the old masthead started to feel a bit dated; its pointiness and heavily 'constructed' feeling no longer represented what we wanted the magazine to stand for.

So we contacted Arch MacDonnell (that's him in the photo above) at Auckland design firm Inhouse and asked him and his team to come up with options for a new masthead that better reflected our vision for the magazine. We said we wanted something that felt evolutionary rather than revolutionary, especially considering the magazine only changed its name from NZ Home & Entertaining to HOME New Zealand three years ago. Change is good, but we didn't want to force too much radical change on our readers.

After a few meetings in which Arch showed us a really exciting set of options, the masthead you see above is the one we opted for. Interestingly, as we've been showing it around the office here, some people don't even notice that there's been a change, something that suits us fine, as we didn't want our regular readers to feel they no longer recognised us.

We like the new masthead's friendliness and approachability, and we also like how clean and graphic it feels. The period at the end containing the letters 'NZ' adds a nice sense of solidity, a feeling that we emphatically know what we're on about (which, most of the time, we like to think we do!). What we like most of all is how it sits so comfortably on our new cover, as if it logically belongs there.
Arch is on our next contributors' page answering questions about the new masthead. Here's what he had to say:

HOME New Zealand: How did you and your team come up with our new masthead?

Arch MacDonnell: We wanted to soften the hard-edged angularity of the old masthead. It needed to feel more 'homely' without being too cutesy or crafty. We opted for a customised weight of Gotham rounded, an elegant and modern font from the talented folk at Hoefler & Frere-Jones. We think the resulting letterforms are assertive yet not imposing. Friendly, yet not folksy. All in all, a well-rounded solution.

Did you enjoy the process?

It's always nice to work on a project that needs to evolve rather than radically change.
Getting up close and personal with the letterforms is something we like to do! And it’s amazing how little adjustments here and there have such an effect on the personality of a letterform.

What else are you working on at the moment?

As always there's a diverse mix of projects simmering away at Inhouse. There's a new wine label for &Co simply called The Supernatural, with a brief to break wine label conventions, a brand refresh for the Auckland Art Fair, a new book project with the irrepressible John Reynolds, and an identity extension for a coffee roastery/restaurant/bar in London (Caravan) as well as developing a series of our own graphic objects that we'll be releasing in the coming months.

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