A Compact Wellington Home Built Around A Flowering Indoor Courtyard

In ‘Finally A Court House’, Spacecraft Architects were tasked with designing a new family home on a 164 square metre backyard site in Berhampore, New Zealand.

The clients had worked with Spacecraft before, placing their full trust in the practice to design a beautiful, functional home. ‘We also knew how they live and broadly what their needs were, so we could operate quite fluidly,’ says Tim Gittos, Spacecraft Architects director. 

Spacecraft Architects initially explored designing a ‘tower’ on site, although this was quickly  thrown out. Tim explains, ‘We realised early on that if we built up on the site, in the form of a tower, the house would be very exposed both to the elements and from a privacy point of view.’ 

Instead, Spacecraft devised a single-storey, inward facing home around an internal courtyard covering an 81 square metre internal floor plan. The architects have been fine tuning this courtyard concept for years, ‘partially due to an interest in vernacular forms of this (from almost every climate, from India to ancient Rome) and also in the work of architects like Geoffrey Bawa in Sri Lanka,’ says Tim. 

‘By looking inward on the site, we could create a sheltered, private garden which also feels like an oasis in such a constrained urban site.’ 

The house takes the form of a square, with two continuous sides containing the living areas, kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms. The remaining sides are dedicated to additional outdoor space, positioned on either side of a standalone room that accommodates an office or third bedroom. 

External walls built to the boundary (not visible to the residents when in the home) are clad in fire-resistant and economical fibre cement sheet, while the internal walls viewable from the courtyard feature macrocarpa weatherboards. Clear corrugated polycarbonate shelters select outdoor spaces from the excessive Wellington winds, while letting in sun and a slightly refracted view.

Every room except for the bathroom is afforded direct views of the central courtyard with colourful blooming cosmos, creating the effect of an ever changing piece of furniture. 

‘An unexpected aspect is how the gate into the courtyard feels like the front door of the house, which further reinforces the garden as an interior space,’ says Tim.  

The Design Files

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