written by:
January 25, 2009
Originally published in The New American Home
The dark, primeval mountains and jagged ravines of New Zealand are free of rampaging Orcs, but Middle-earth, 2007, has another nuisance on the loose. It is the load-bearing truck, carrying a quaint, preloved homestead—or rather, two trucks with two halves of a quaint, preloved homestead—causing traffic chaos en route to the wine region of Wairarapa.
Longhouse in New Zealand
The house's angled placement on the site, as well as its narrow footprint, provide effortless cross ventilation and abundant natural sunlight.
1 / 5
The long corridor between the guest and main quarters provides ample light and lovely views in addition to acting as one of the Longhouse's most hard-working green elements. The concrete Trombe wall collects sunlight and distributes it as heat throughout the home.
2 / 5
Ted Preston takes charge of hot beverages in the kitchen. The architects diligently avoided cold, hard minimalism with a honey-tinged Italian poplar ceiling.
3 / 5
The courtyard facing Anne Cornege is sheltered from the Wairarapa winds year-round.
4 / 5
Sun shines through the glass and onto the concrete, heat-storing wall and floor in the hallway that separates the guestrooms from the main house. This “heat sink” keeps the Longhouse warm when the mercury dips.
5 / 5
Longhouse in New Zealand
The house's angled placement on the site, as well as its narrow footprint, provide effortless cross ventilation and abundant natural sunlight.
Project 
Longhouse
Architect 

The dark, primeval mountains and jagged ravines of New Zealand are free of rampaging Orcs, but Middle-earth, 2007, has another nuisance on the loose. It is the load-bearing truck, carrying a quaint, preloved homestead—or rather, two trucks with two halves of a quaint, preloved homestead—causing traffic chaos en route to the wine region of Wairarapa.

Dozens of these abodes have come to rest in Martinborough, a town of 800 souls, where the very concept of tradition is built into the street plan, arranged 127 years ago to mimic Britain’s Union Jack. So you might imagine that Ted Preston and Anne Cornege’s Longhouse—as in 131 feet long and 20 feet wide—has given locals something to talk about.

“We built a house—we’re weird,” says Preston, a freelance government management consultant, with the calm demeanor of a man in a downshifting cycle. After 26 years in Wellington, and with an empty nest, Preston and Cornege can get cozy in their contemporary retreat, a sophisticated construction of concrete, glass, and steel. Two guest bedrooms for weekend tourists bring in a little income, and the question of sustainability was a no-brainer. “I’m not an eco-warrior,” Preston says. “It just seems the sensible thing to do in this day and age. And look around you—it’s windy, it’s sunny.”
 
Outside, there’s enough natural energy swirling around to power this planet and a dozen others. Every tree in sight is bent at the waist, as though snap-frozen during aerobics class, the result of a steady pounding by the North Island’s famous nor’westerlies. And the sun is fierce, no thanks to the depleted ozone layer directly above. The task, then, for designers Cecile Bonnifait and William Giesen, of the Wellington practice Atelier-workshop, was to harness this abundant natural energy and let it seep throughout two distinct areas, the living and guest quarters.

The designers worked as they always do: from the ground up. Bonnifait recalls clearly how things began on their first visit to what was no more than a bumpy, empty paddock. “When we came here, it was a warm day, and there was this very long grass and so we just walked through and felt the undulations,” she says. They looked up and saw mountains. “And we wanted to express the ridge in the distance, even the formation of the landscape,” she adds.

The logic of the house was born: It would reflect the natural terrain (hence its angled placement on the site) as well as the far-off peaks (note the tall gabled roof stretching along an elongated corridor). Finally, an intricate grid would radiate from the building, governing the position of 200 white paper birch and totara trees, the living and guest modules, and the courtyards that divide them. “It’s important to us that every space has a different experience with the landscape,” Bonnifait says.

The ambient comfort level is controlled with passive design: copious skylight cutouts, double-glazed glass, orientation toward the sun, and, crucially, “getting sun onto thermal mass, like concrete,” Giesen says. “When that late-afternoon sun comes in, you’ve got a big concrete wall and floor that holds that heat so it can dissipate through the rest of the house.” Among the advantages of a narrow house, he explains, are good cross ventilation and the opportunity of sunlight reaching all the way across every room. “We haven’t had heating on for six months. You tend to forget about it,” Cornege confirms.

In summer, when the mercury hits 100 degrees Farenheit, the house must be cooled without “machinery,” as Preston says. “But there are louvers, lots of sliding glass doors, etc., so we can tune the place, even though the wind is quite significant.”

The project was ahead of the curve. Wind power was discussed early on, but the expense, the noise level, and the primitive “eggbeater technology” still widely in use put the idea on hold. The microhoteliers use solar energy only for the hot water system.

Like the rest of the world, New Zealand’s researchers are working furiously to produce cheap, efficient green power. And when it arrives, the residents of the Longhouse will be ready. Their home has been future-proofed. Preston explains, “Down in the second guest room, the internal framing has been strengthened so we can put in more solar cells or a bank of batteries so we could do the wind-power thing.”

Present conditions, however, are not so bad. All that thermal concrete has been softened internally with honey-colored Italian poplar ceiling panels, cut like jigsaw pieces on site, and externally with waxed boards of rich, macrocarpa pine. “You drive up and the lights reflect on the wood and it sort of glows,” Preston says. “And when I get inside, I get the feeling the house is smaller, much more intimate, because our world ends just where those little pools of light go. There’s nothing more out there.”

He can sit in the AV room, tucked behind the kitchen, and listen to music or watch television while a microcourtyard away, his wife is reading in their bedroom or soaking in a sunken concrete bath taking in the rural views. Any guests are safely, privately, quietly, and eco-consciously stashed away behind the sliding door down the very long hallway.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
amaroso40040
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016