For Sale by tender: CLASSIC MEDITERRANEAN HILLSIDE HOME

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Actually, neither a classic, nor Mediterranean, but I guess Real Estate Agents run out of descriptors fairly quickly when a house doesn’t have conventional character appeal, nor potential to stamp your own personality on it (via the insatiable kiwi attitude for DIY of course). “Outstanding views” (back across the harbour to Wellington City) are of course the opening words of the ad’s script – the house does at least offer something that can be recognised as value-enhancing in a conventional sense.

Views of Wellington harbour are offered at various points throughout the house

The house is obviously an early Athfield special, and I guess if the house is to be described as a ‘classic,’ then that is what it is a classic example of. I haven’t seen it published anywhere, but then, I haven’t looked terribly energetically for it either… (perhaps someone knows something…?).

It is an excellent exercise in designing a house on a steeply sloping section, where the interior planning is dictated by that slope. Rooms are arranged, almost on top of each other, along a steep (and probably rather unforgiving if misstepped) stairway/spine which leads from the bottom of the house to the top. There is no open-planning here, rather a series of small rooms, with the public areas at least, making connections to each other through various slots/apertures.

Here the kitchen links to the rooms/volumes either side of it – a sitting room above and to the left, and a more formal (if that term can be used in this house) lounge below the kitchen (to the right). The image is taken from the vantage of the staircase that acts as an ordering ‘spine’. Tip for new owner – watch out for falling toddlers when cooking on the stove-top…

Neither is ‘indoor/outdoor flow the ‘seamless’ ranchslider transition from inside to acres of treated-timber decking outside, whicht typifies popular usage of the term. Here the journey through the house is one that folds back upon itself, as you reach the top and come back down again over/between the combination of forms that correspond to the interior volumes (each of which room allowed its own volume/form in that respect). So, there is a common spatial experience between the interior and the rooftop exterior , one that privileges small and independent ‘spaces’, which are nevertheless linked into each other and the greater whole, through visual and/or circulatory paths.

Of course, in the real estate visuals (which you can see by clicking on any of the images in this post), the central stair is not pictured, despite it being the defining ordering system within the house – interior images are carefully framed to avoid portraying the requirement for any kind of physical effort – the house might as well be single level from that point of view.

The office/study at the very top of the house.

As I am ‘open-homing’ at the moment, such industry devices are foremost in my mind as I zip around the Sunday parade of open homes. This one, by virtue of having to, I guess, stands out from the usual marketing strategies. The advertising does acknowledge the fact that it is Athfield designed, which indicates that there must be some kind of value associated with that (it is rare that architects names be mentioned in real estate advertising) – although I suspect a more conventional house, dug into the hillside with fewer levels would be ‘worth’ a whole lot more. Interestingly though, the ad refers to “all the special spaces & textures that are the signature of world renowned architect Ian Athfield.” Leaving aside the “world renowned” tag, that statement is fairly sophisticated architectural critique in terms of real estate advertising. Clearly this is aimed at the more discerning buyer.

Having a small child with me, I was warned by the agent to control their every step in the house, as balconies, stairs etc, are not the type that would gain current safety approval. It seems that negative points about a property will be admitted to – when lives are at stake…

I might be responsible for driving a horde of architectural voyeurs through an unsuspecting open home with this post, but I am not sure that the Real estate Agent will mind, as who knows, there might be a buyer amongst the ‘rabble’… CV is $740 000 if you’re interested, and things are often selling just under that in the current market – that’s just a mere snippet for those million dollar views…


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3 Responses to “For Sale by tender: CLASSIC MEDITERRANEAN HILLSIDE HOME”

  1. Spencer Says:

    I can almost taste the Ouzo as I look at the photos, although I wouldn’t want to be walking down those steps after too much of it. (sigh) Wellington on a good day eh…

  2. pingu Says:

    One question always has to be asked of Athfield designed houses from that era:

    does it still leak?

  3. m-d Says:

    No evidence of leaking that i could see (very cursory examination though) – in fact, I was surprised at how well the ‘Mediterranean plasterwork’ was holding up…

    The separate garage/office at the front of the property smelt decidedly musty inside though – not sure who/when that was designed…

    Anyone make it to yesterday’s open home…?

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