The house of the giant Matau
It’s as if the house had been set on the knees of a giant. An ancient Maori legend describes how Lake Wakatipu, an extraordinary 50-mile-long S-shaped glacial lake that cuts across the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island, was created from the body of the fierce giant Matau who had kidnapped the local chief’s beautiful daughter Manata. After rescuing her, Manata’s lover Matakauri set fire to Matau as he was sleeping curled up on one side, melting the snow and ice of the surrounding mountains and forming the deep lake. Today it is said that the town of Glenorchy sits at the giant’s head at the north end of the lake, while Kingston rests at his feet to the south. And the charming resort town of Queenstown – which this house looks out onto from a nearby hillside – is curled up on his knee.
The legend is of course familiar to Ed Elliot, the architect commissioned to carry out the project, who chose Queenstown as the base for his practice Elliot Architects. A typical New Zealander, after completing internships at some of the leading practices in Oakland, Elliot set up his own practice in Queenstown where he has designed most of the villas in the residential area. He is particularly known for his attention to the natural landscape, an aspect that is ever present in his work. This house is a perfect example. “As an architect, I respond to the context and the environment, but in my projects I also take the client’s needs on board,” notes Elliot with a seafaring metaphor typical of New Zealanders, a population of skilled sailors.
In this project, Elliot sought to establish a dialogue between nature and architecture: the house is surrounded by water (the splendid lake), earth (the black mountains that trace out the lake’s sinuous profile) and air (the immense sky above). This close link with the landscape is reflected in the building’s complex geometry, a kind of glass and concrete origami with pointed roof pitches that seem ready to take flight. The perimeter walls are replaced by seamless glazing on the lakefront, allowing the environment and living space to blend together and creating a thin dividing line between interior and exterior.
To achieve this goal of integrating with the landscape, Elliot also chose the materials with great care, notably the ceramic tiles which reflect the colour and strong material presence of the mountains. In particular he chose the Tecnoquartz collection from Lea Ceramiche in a Hard Black colour which emphasises the light and natural surroundings. Most importantly, the ceramic tiles combine outstanding technical performance (especially high wear and weather resistance) with sophisticated aesthetics and design, making them suitable for use in both the interiors and the exteriors. The dark colour of the floors is counterbalanced by the warm tones of the beech wood used on the ceilings.
The key colour of the interior design project is white, a tone that is also used on the beams and columns. The sofas, chairs, tables, bookcases and lighting fixtures all stand out against the dark floor, creating a powerfully contrasting play of colours that is alleviated by a well-balanced use of beech wood. The prevalence of European design reflects the nationality of the owners, a reference to the Old World that skilfully mixes knowledge and cultures that are only geographically distant.
Lea Ceramiche, Tecnoquartz
20x30, 30x30, 60x60, 20x60cm
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,04%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): ULA - UHA
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): ≤ 50 N/mm2; ≤ 510 Kg/cm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R11
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant