- Simon Wilson
It sits on top of the temperate hillside, intaking the prevailing westerly flow of air. Behind it is the great range of Southern Alps, where peaks are covered in thin layers of ice caps and bodies are a pale green of freshly sprouted grass. Below it, a view of the valley and occasional lines of green pines. On the same elevation, not too far from it, are patches of yellow wheats creating a romantic landscape. But it sits there, all black, like a sturdy stone that implants itself onto an endless field of silence, roughness, and even extremities.
Alpine Terrace House by Fearon Hay Architects—a conjugation of four intersecting masses—is a retreat that withdraws from the urban hassles to immerse itself in a rugged peacefulness. Deemed as a sanctuary, the project’s location is intriguing in the way that it poses a harsh environment on conditions for a serene relaxation. Perhaps to counter the climate of Southern New Zealand, the form is expanded horizontally as a response to the strength of winds at high velocity. Meanwhile, the facade of black timber, metal, and stone play along with the scenery’s monolithic grandeur.
The architecture holds a middle courtyard—a communal space that is protected by four buffer spaces that offer great views of the surroundings. Varied from a gradient of private and public programmes, each space is intertwined with another to create a circular flow that then draws back to the centre where all the inhabitants are gathered. Compressed, the interior circulation is dictated by a visuality of verticality, while that vision turns ninety degrees to a horizontal composition when it’s put outward.
Inside, black tiles cascade throughout, with moments of glass panels to lighten up the spaces. As light hits on those pristine surfaces, the majestic mountain range’s reflections appear as if the boundaries of inside and outside had been stripped and their dialogues have been conducted organically all this time. Adding to that optical illusion, notes of whimsical furnishes like a taxidermic bird or a metal rocket add liveliness to a barren inner-landscape. Mimicking the outer setting’s textures, variations of tactile materials within Alpine Terrace House create exciting change of pace, giving depth to a flat monochromatic palette.
Alpine Terrace House is a strange project in the way that it toys with peculiarity and minimalism. The contrast of childish maturity and playful elegance can be greatly felt when one navigates through the space. It is in this contrast that one can feel at ease in lieu of vast nature; an ease that’s not easily obtained, yet so satisfying when acquired.