Award ‘validation’ for small practice
Since being named one of the winners in the Housing category of the 2017 NZIA Southern Architecture Awards, first time entrant Eliska Lewis says it is proof of her belief that there are many small architectural practices in New Zealand producing work of a very high standard.
“It’s validation for all the time I have put into this project while juggling family. To be recognised by the industry is a real honour,” she says.
The holiday home in Wanaka, which won the award, is called The Dacha, meaning ‘home away from home’ in Russian. She says the site was challenging.
There was not enough flat area to contain a large house and to also provide adequate space for car, boat and guest parking and turning.
This meant that the main part of the house had to be built over the steeply sloping terrain so that parts of the north facing patio would be up to three metres above the existing ground level.
For Eliska it was exactly the sort of challenge she loves as her practice has established a reputation for specialising in residential projects with complex resource consent applications.
The client was clear about the brief – that the house should be all about the views, says Eliska, so this formed the main focus of the design.
A long stacked stone wall, inside and outside, is the spine of the house that divides the service and entry side of the house, that faces the street, from the private and glazed side of the house that faces the lake.
Nearly every bedroom in the house has enjoys lake views. There is a guest wing, at the west end of the home and master suite and study located in the East wing.
The guest wing contains four bedrooms. A large central outdoor room faces the lake. Stacking wind screen doors that slide into a cavity when not in use provide shelter from the wind.
The house includes a 1.8m wide verandah with proportions carefully designed using computer modelling to calculate the shading effects within
rooms during different times of the year.
As Eliska’s design philosophy is to develop designs that are innovative and well crafted, with an emphasis on sustainability, this features strongly in the home.
She says that controlling energy consumption, harvesting energy from the site and utilising passive design principles were all driving forces in decisions of how the house would be constructed.
Earthwork retaining walls were constructed to stabilise level lawn areas that house geothermal heating fields.
The underfloor heating for the house, the hot water cylinder and a number of other features are all heated by geothermal energy.
The house was designed to minimize heat loss with floor slabs constructed where the insulation is sandwiched between the structural slab and the topping slab, to eliminate thermal bridging through foundation walls.
Other features include aluminium joinery with low emission glazing and thermally broken frames, walls lined with Proclima Intello vapour check and airtightness membrane and the potential for photo voltaics to be installed in the future.
Eliska, who was born in the Czech Republic and completed her architectural degree at the University of Washington before arriving in New Zealand, worked for a local Wanaka architect for 10 years before going out on her own and establishing Eliska Lewis Architects Limited in 2007 in Wanaka.
Her practice specialises in residential projects with complex resource consent applications and most clients come by referral.
She says she has deliberately remained a small practice employing just one part time staff member, Julia Plimmer, and working from a home office as it has allowed her the flexibility to be with family at the same time.
Demand for her services means customers are willing to wait.
She is presently working on a number of projects: a home in Gore and a home in Wanaka in the design phase and three under construction in Cromwell, Bannockburn and Wanaka.