During a drive from Auckland to Wellington, Ainsley O’Connell and Barry Copeland spotted the perfect piece of land for a rural holiday cabin. Set high above the remote town of Taihape in the the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, the 1,000-square-foot plot was a former vegetable garden for the local market, sporting captivating views of the rural landscape and town lights below.
The couple, both architects, camped on the site to immerse themselves in the "constantly changing light and atmospheric conditions" before designing the cabin—a process that involved the creation of over 20 models before they settled on the design of a tiny prefabricated cabin inspired by the local rural vernacular.
"One of the biggest challenges was the distance from Auckland," notes Copeland of the five-hour journey. "We decided to design a prefabricated building to reduce the build time and thus make the process easier to control from a distance."
With the help of local builder Daniel Crimp and his team, the couple also used the project as an opportunity to experiment with cross-laminated timber panels for the first time.
"The project became a prototype for using this system for future multi-unit housing projects," explains Copeland of the AB Cabin project. "There is a great shortage of affordable housing in New Zealand at the moment. An attraction was that the timber is all locally grown and then made into cross-laminated panels in Nelson, which is in the north of New Zealand’s South Island."
The precision-made, pre-coded XLam panels were delivered flat-packed to the site and assembled on site in just two days atop a grid of supporting timber posts. After the aluminum windows were installed, the weatherproof shell was ready for internal finishing and cladding in just over a week.
To keep focus on the natural surroundings, the couple opted for a simple mono-pitched form clad in corrugated metal siding. The inclusion of a double-height living room, large projecting windows, as well as minimalist yet cozy interior decor make the light-filled, 725-square-foot cabin feel much larger than its size suggests.
At the heart of the cabin is an open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen. Above is the mezzanine with the bedroom and a flexible loft space with an observation turret that faces southeast.
Although the cabin is five hours from their home in Auckland, O’Connell and Copeland have made frequent trips to their getaway, which has also hosted their three adult children.
From their cozy abode above Taihape, Copeland shares: "We see the lights at night, hear the trains on the main trunk line, and the neighbors share walnuts, quinces, peacharines and hospitality."
Builder/ General Contractor: Crimpys Contracting
Structural Engineer: Law Sue Davison
Electrical: DJ Electrical
Plumbing: Matt Hobbs Plumbing