The race for the WAN House of the Year Award 2012 was whittled down to two projects which battled for the coveted title. The first being Sforza Seilern Architects’ Gota Residence in East Africa and Under Pohutukawa, Auckland by Herbst Architects. Both projects were so highly praised for their ‘highly contextual’ nature and attention to detail by all the judges it seemed almost impossible to pick a winner. However, one was finally chosen for its inventiveness and originality alone; Sforza Seilern Architects’ Gota Residence.
Admired for its ‘modest yet spectacular’ nature Herbst Architects’ scheme was close to winning the WAN House of the Year Award judge Ellie Stathaki, Architecture Editor of Wallpaper & Co-Author of The New Modern House felt Herbst’s scheme was ‘not trying to prove anything’ and yet was ‘tied to the surroundings’ with the structure ‘[talking] to the trees.’ With fellow judge Piers Gough, Founding Partner of CZWG Architects fell for the scheme’s ‘magical’ qualities, in particular the ‘modern articulation of the box’ and the ‘strong architectural determinism which was most wonderfully linked with the landscape’.
However, the winning scheme triumphed with its strong, heavy language and its relationship to the surrounding area. Juror Alison Brooks, Founder of Alison Brooks Architects loved the scheme, commenting that this was set ‘in a climate that lets you go crazy - this is where you can integrate architecture with landscape’ which is exactly was Sforza Seilern Architects achieved.
Unlike some of our other shortlisted schemes, Gota Residence was not a project which was challenged by limited space and funding. Projects such as Carl Turner’s Slip House and Carsson Clarke Carnachan’s Hut on Sleds dealt with incredibly tough conditions involving their site, low funding and very specific briefs. Gota Residence on the other hand clearly had a wealth of resources behind it; however, the architects were to be commended for their use of locally sourced materials and re-use of materials that were dug up from the granite excavation. This particular use of materials meant that the scheme integrated even further with it landscape. Simple gestures such as circular openings in the roofscape to allow light to filter down to trees below and timber decks that break away into pools which made use of existing granite excited the judges, with Alison Brooks proclaiming that this scheme had ‘things [she’d] never seen before’.
Sforza Seilern Architects’ Gota Residence is not a scheme which holds back. Described by Piers Gough as having ‘not one ounce of tentativeness, or modesty’, the judges enjoyed the ‘strong overtones of Neutra’ in the design. For our judges, this was ultimately a scheme that had been tailored perfectly to the client, a musician who was looking for a place of privacy, relaxation and inspiration. Gota Residence provides a working home for the client. Not only is it ‘a super place to be,’ but provides the necessary shelter from the harsh climate of Eastern Africa with oversized timber roof. The journey from the bright open landscape to through the shaded timber clad intermediate spaces between inside and outside to the rocky almost ‘cavernous’ interior provides a variety spaces for the occupant to enjoy and inhabit. Overall, a ‘wow’ project worthy of WAN’s House of the Year Award.