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K Valley House – A retreat for film makers

K Valley House, Designed by husband-and-wife team Lance and Nicola Herbst of Auckland-based Herbst Architects, includes recycled elements such as corrugated iron and timber. Both of these houses are inspired by the shapes and materials of traditional rural buildings, sited in countryside near Thames. The house acts as a place of retreat for its clients.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-02-Lance-Herbst-759x506 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

Built into the steep hillside of New Zealand’s Kauaeranga Valley, was designed with a focus on sustainability and the provenance of materials. The corrugated iron exterior draws from the traditional rusting iron sheds common in the district, and has begun to develop a distinctive patina of age, intended as a kind of rural camouflage.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-03-Lance-Herbst-759x506 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

“This dramatically sited house is beautifully attuned to the tastes and needs of clients with a strong sense of place and a self-sufficient approach to their life in a country valley. As the clients wished, recycled materials and fittings feature significantly in the building; the commitment to a rural idiom is clearly, and meaningfully, signalled by the rainscreen of rusted corrugated iron sheets on the exterior. The house, intentionally, looks a little beat up, but appearances aren’t everything: the rustic materials are lovingly assembled and inside it is clear that this is a sophisticated piece of work, as comfortable as a cosy retreat should be, and as confident as an inspiring site demands.” – Jury comment / New Zealand Architecture Awards

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-04-Lance-Herbst-800x1200 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

The home’s rusty skin, which was salvaged from a building in the town of Thames, is a reference to the old farm sheds that dot the valley around the home. It is pierced only by thin slits that allow narrow valley views from the upper floor, a gesture the Herbsts say makes the home a stronger sculptural presence in the landscape (adding regular windows would have made it look too domesticated, and diminished its mystery). The home’s main bedroom and bathroom on the upper floor open to the rear of the property through sliding glass doors.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-05-Lance-Herbst-800x1200 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

Herbst Architects:

The clients are a couple, a director and director of photography in the film industry, their jobs involve them filming on location for stretches of time. This house is the space to which they retreat between filming.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-06-Lance-Herbst-759x506 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

The site is 20 hectares of farmland on the Kauaeranga river in the valley of the same name, it stretches from high on the hillside to the river banks and includes a ridgeline which commands a panoramic view of the farmland below and the native bush on the opposite slopes of the valley.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-07-Lance-Herbst-800x1200 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

The clients brief called for a response which engaged with the site in both a filmic as well as practical way, they live a life of self-sufficiency while on the land, including growing, animal husbandry and butchery.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-08-Lance-Herbst-800x1200 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

The clients spoke of materials that have a patina of age, of sustainability, of recycling and adaptive re-use, of provenance of materials.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-11-Lance-Herbst-759x506 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

“Our response was to concentrate the small mass of building that the brief determined into a singular geometric form that could hold its own in the big landscape. We positioned the form straddling the ridgeline, engaged with the slope at the high end and floating above the land as it falls away.”

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-14-Lance-Herbst-759x506 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

Drawing from the vernacular of rusty corrugated iron sheds prevalent in the district, we clad the form in a rainscreen of rusted corrugated iron sheets, a rural camouflage of sorts.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-16-Lance-Herbst-759x506 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

The building is made largely of recycled materials and fittings, which the clients procured over the duration of the build.

K-Valley-House-By-Herbst-Architects-18-Lance-Herbst-800x1200 K Valley House / Herbst Architects

© Lance Herbst

Project Data:

Project name: K Valley House
Location: Kauaeranga Valley, Thames, New Zealand
Coordinates: -37.132950, 175.616255

  • Type By Characteristic: Farm House, Green & Sustainable House, Holiday House
  • Type By Site: Hill House, Countryside / Suburb House
  • Type By Size: Large House – (more than 650 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Recycled Materials House

Floor count: 2
Site area: 20 hectares
Project area: 178 sqm
Status: Built
Completion Year: 2015


  • 2016 – New Zealand HOME magazine’s Home of the Year award – Winner
  • 2016 – The New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) Awards – New Zealand Architecture Awards – Category: Housing – Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: University of Melbourne – Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning

  • Herbst Architects – Level 2 “The Wedge” 80 Mackelvie Street, Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand

Contractor : Doug Fleming

Text Description: © Courtesy of Herbst Architects, New Zealand Architecture Awards, New Zealand HOME magazine’s Home of the Year award
Images: © Herbst Architects, Lance Herbst



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