A Coastal New Zealand Home Mines Starlight and Sunshine With Massive Light Wells

A Coastal New Zealand Home Mines Starlight and Sunshine With Massive Light Wells

By Lucy Wang
On the coast of New Zealand’s North Island, an award-winning holiday home puts a sculptural twist on the local bach typology.

When Ken Crosson of Auckland-based Crosson Architects first met with retired builder Bob de Leeuw and his wife Chris to discuss the design of their new holiday home in Kuaotunu, the architect immediately fell in love with the couple’s attitude to life.

"They are humble but courageous," says Crosson of his clients’ personalities, which drove the design of their new retreat. The understated home doesn’t overshadow its beachfront location, yet it possesses distinctive qualities unique to the region.

Nestled between sand dunes on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand, Light Mine is mere minutes from the beach with uninterrupted views of the water.

Guided by a site-specific design approach, the architects explored Kuaotunu’s gold mining history and the many abandoned mines nearby. To pay homage to the area’s gold rush in the late 19th century, Crosson took the shape of a mine shaft, inverted it, and placed the pyramidal form atop the home to create a sculptural roofline topped with skylights.

"Varying heights and positions of the shafts break up the form on the ridgeline, establishing an identity and interest," says the firm. "The house steps forward and back, the plan mapping the movement of the sun."

The mine shaft–inspired light wells are set at an angle that slightly skews against the home’s orthogonal plan.

"The shafts are inverted, mining the sunshine and starlight, extending into the sky as opposed to the earth," note the architects. "Within the strategically placed shafts, drama is created and time is registered as the sun moves around the house."

Inverted to bring light down into the building, the mine shaft–inspired towers inspired the project’s name: Light Mine.

The three "light mines" are "placed over the major volumes," explains Crosson. "The aim was that they would choreograph experiences. There is one over the master bed, one over the dining and living area, and one over the annex."

The light mine placed directly above the bed in the master bedroom frames views of the stars.

The Light Mine has a playful, bach-like quality with its simple timber exterior and single-story massing that comprises a series of "pods" set around a grassy courtyard shaded by a mature New Zealand Christmas tree.

The home is clad in reclaimed, silver-toned swamp totara that helps it blend into the dunes. The textured cladding is mounted on custom Perspex for easy maintenance.

When viewed from a distance, the home reads as three separate boxes, each topped with a light mine.

"[The holiday home needed] to work for the extended family, or just a party of two," explains Crosson. The spatial layout consists of a beachside pod that holds the living areas and master bedroom; a pod behind with a bunk room and bedroom for the clients’ kids and grandchildren; and a detached guest suite across the courtyard.

"There was to be a series of zones where one could be closeted away in retreat—or one could open up the buildings and utilize the outdoor space in between."

Designed for year-round use, the flexible holiday home can sleep anywhere from two to a dozen people.

A covered deck connects the main volume with the master bedroom and living spaces to the secondary volume (pictured here) with the bunk beds and guest bedroom.

A glimpse inside the detached guest suite nestled into the hillside behind the main house.

In contrast to the silvery facade, the light-filled interiors are wrapped in whitewashed band-sawn cedar that lend a sense of warmth throughout. The eye-catching Light Mine won Home magazine's Home of the Year 2020 award.

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The kitchen was constructed with the KXN modular steel system by IMO.

Large sliding doors, corner windows, and covered decks blur the boundary between indoors and out.

The view from Light Mine to the water on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula.

Deep overhangs protect the entire from unwanted solar gain in the summer without blocking rays from the winter sun.

Light Mine floor plan

Related Reading:

10 Breezy Bachs That’ll Have You Running to the Beach

A Curved Holiday Home Nestles Into a Spectacular Clifftop in New Zealand

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Ken Crosson, Crosson Architects@crossonarchitects 

Builder/General Contractor: Percival Construction

Lighting Design: Inlite

Cabinetry Design/ Installation: IMO Cabinetry

Exterior Cladding: St. Lukes Timber

Interior Lining: Hermpac

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