Let’s all go to the seaside. Seriously. And we’ll stay in amazing huts like these and when the holiday’s over… we’ll just take them back with us! Hut on Sleds, by New Zealand architecture firm Crosson Clarke Carnachan, is currently quite far away from where we live but with a tractor attached it’s pretty portable, and when there’s a will there’s a way, right? Built for a stretch of New Zealand beach that’s subject to coastal erosion, one of the primary challenges of the project involved responding to the changing conditions of the location. So… they put it on a pair of giant sleds. Brilliant.
But that’s not the only thing that makes it so great. Building on a New Zealand tradition of beach huts (or “bachs”), the design maintains the small size, functionality, and simplicity expected of such a structure but ensures that it makes the absolute most of everything – no space goes overlooked, and wonderful fold-out elements transform the building from a closed wooden box into a luxuriously light-filled home that admits sand and ocean views alike. The design is extremely practical in terms of space; an unexpected mezzanine level, along with a sensibly laid-out ground floor and a roof terrace, ensures that the clients (a family of five) can live very comfortably within an area only 40 square metres.
What were the limitations and challenges of the project?
The biggest challenge for the project was that it’s in what’s termed the ‘coastal erosion zone’ and so needed to be demountable. We took this to mean moveable. The project was also a challenge in terms of size. What was the minimum living area a family five actually needed, while providing interest and engagement with the site? It was to be sustainable and eco-friendly at the same time.
We absolutely love the fact that the structural form itself, apart from being transportable, can shift via the use of different folding-out elements. Is this something you carry through different architectural works, or would like to see used more generally?
Yes we are interested in the transition-space between inside and outside and the use of moveable screens, shutters, doors, windows etc, and how we manipulate that experience of going from inside to outside.
How did you choose the materials – was it important that the structure blend in with its location?
It was important that the structure “talks” to its location. We wanted it to be seen as an appropriate built artifact in the coastal environment, perhaps like a surf lifesaving tower. The materials were chosen because of the history in the context of New Zealand baches, and we chose materials that were eco-friendly, cost effective and found in other holiday houses in the area.
What are the climate and associated light considerations? And how is it heated, and where does the electricity/power-source come from?
The house is largely passively heated and cooled. Large areas of north-facing glazing trap the winter sun, while the raised front screen protects it from summer sun. A small wood burning oven/fire is used for winter heating. The house is connected to the national power grid.
Hut on Sleds has been shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival 2012 prize, nominated under the “villa” category. This in itself is interesting for a design with such “back-to-basics” origins, but then again, the fact that the design evokes both isolated, rustic shelters and slick, Bond-esque oceanfront getaway is one of the many reasons why we love it.