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Karori Modular

Completion: Under Construction

Contractor: PLS Consulting

Chaytor Street is the main road to the suburb of Karori, an established suburban area of Wellington 2 km due west of the Wellington CBD. The site is a vacant 1023 square metre plot on a south-facing bank on the corner of the escarpment and an open stream.  After only 4-5 metres of flat land the remainder is made up of a steep south facing bank with a consistent 40 degree slope. In order to provide a building site we propose to remove 2,025 cubic metres of the bank closest to Chaytor Street to create a flat stepped building platform of about 500 square metres.  Despite a zoning of outer residential, the site already has one high-density neighbour, but is otherwise isolated (not surrounded by houses) and is very close to shops and public transport.  A multi-unit housing development in this location is therefore well suited, and our brief was to maximise this potential.


The project proposes two new apartment buildings with 9 dwelling units of between 2 and 3 bedrooms in size. The buildings will enhance the streetscape, adding buildings with similar scale and density to its southern neighbour. Individual units are orientated away from the existing apartments, with the living areas facing east and west, which is appropriate due to the topography of site as this elevates these over the gully to the east and valley to the west offering each unit privacy.  The use of offshore built modular building elements for the apartments means a repeated building element.  However modular apartment units have been offset and rotated forms through the storeys meaning open all-glass elevations toward the east and west aspects are achieved without a continuous wall of glass. The pre-fabricated building-form is therefore individually oriented to accentuate volumes and individual sense of ownership for tenants. A simple vertical screen element creates privacy with a vertical timber-like elements which juxtaposes nicely against the simple horizontal weatherboard-like cladding that wraps the modular apartment units. 

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Recent Work

101 Rongatai Road Exterior Angle 5 Final

Kilbirnie Multi-Unit

Completion: Under Construction

Contractor: PLS Consulting

The brief was to maximise the potential of this 699m2 site located in Kilbirnie’s new Medium Density Zone - just 200m to Kilbirnie shops, parks and aquatic centre.  The redevelopment project proposed 7 dwelling units all with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, internal access garages all within freehold titles .  The design divided the site into two 10-metre high blocks offset to each other, essentially creating articulated built form with clear individual apartments and entrances as well as space for site amenity.  The built form enhances the area - with a simple clean aesthetic, consistent dark-clad forms that are rotated slightly to the grid - creating a coherent address, adding contemporary thought-through buildings to the streetscape. 


Within the development residential amenity is provided with distinct apartment entrances, individual parking and outdoor areas. Each unit has a living area facing north or west that opens to outdoor elevated decks as well as a garden - all achieving appropriate sunlight access and orientation away from the existing neighbours and offering each unit privacy.  The first floor has the living areas for all units, these face north (units 5-7) or west (units 1-4), where kitchen/dining/living are open-plan and arranged towards the outdoor living and elevated decks. Bedrooms are located on the ground and second floors. This layout ensures that both the living and bedroom spaces are well located - effectively opening living toward the rear of neighbouring buildings for privacy, while bedroom areas within each unit are located in the private areas for good tenant amenity.  All living areas are above ground level, but also have access to sunny ground level open patio + garden space. A good sized and sunny elevated deck is directly accessible from each unit’s respective living area.

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Lohia St
101 Rongatai Road Exterior Angle 5 Final

Lohia Street Infill

Completion: December 2018

Contractor: Captain Construction and PLS Construction

The 1296m2 steeply-sloping site is located on the south-eastern side of Lohia Street in the Wellington suburb of Khandallah.  The site was tricky to develop - sloping downward at a consistent 35 degrees below the road, was densely vegetated with a mixture of native and exotic trees as well as general undergrowth - and to further complicate matters was formed on an extensive area of fill at the head of a valley running down to the east.  However it had great opportunity to develop given the site formed an amphitheatre setting enjoying extensive harbour views toward the east that were private given no other houses were located on this side of the road.  Therefore the brief was to maximise the site and views with an executive Khandallah dwelling, that included four bedrooms, two living areas, three bathrooms, double garage, plus deck areas + outdoor landscaped spaces.  


Given the topography of the site, valley orientation, and expansive views; glazing and outdoor amenity area of the proposed dwelling would be along the eastern elevation.  However late sunlight access from the north also required high level windows for light access.  We overcame the tricky site with a dwelling over four floors that included suspended structure down the surface of the slope attached at the top by extensive foundations anchored under the road and a pole structure underneath.  This avoided loading the unstable fill that made up most of the slope, and meant the house plan continually steps down the slope from the entry, and never meets the ground at the bottom - a challenge that required excellent planning to create a liveable dwelling.  After the garage at road level, main bedroom and ensuite are adjacent to the entry one level below.  Open plan living is on the next floor down with continuous glazing to the east, and a cathedral ceiling creating a massive volume in which to entertain and take in the amazing harbour views.  High level western glazing both accentuates the wedge form of the roof and allows late sun into this volume.  One floor below is another three bedrooms, bathroom and second living.  Carefully included deck areas take in the view, and offer a sheltered sunny courtyard adjacent the living for the late summer sun.

Regent st

Newtown MultiUnit

Completion: November 2019

Contractor: Captain Construction

Located in Wellington’s inner residential suburb of Newtown - well serviced by mixed use activities in the form of retail shops, schools, employment and public transport - this flat site of 607m2 had one badly maintained house on it.  The property fronts onto a quiet cul-de-sac and an adjoining public park.  The property faced north and west and directly overlooked Carrara Park, a large urban park with a children’s playground, expansive green lawn and mature trees throughout.  This meant it was a perfect place for development, and the brief was to design as many units as possible.  The inner residential zoning combined with the pre-1930s heritage laws preventing demolition of the existing house, along with flood zones in this low-lying basin meant a long drawn-out resource consent process. However we managed to successfully argue the benefits of 6 townhouses for the site with the Wellington Council.


The design includes a single building containing five 3 storey residential units and one 2 storey residential unit, centrally located to break the roofline where it steps from 3 storeys on either side to 2 storeys at this point. The proposed units are all similarly designed with floor layouts generally consisting of; Ground level – Single garage, bedroom and bathroom; First Level – Kitchen/dining area, living space and outdoor deck/balcony area; and Second Level (excluding unit 4) – Two bedrooms and a bathroom.  On a finer scale the building form is broken up further to mitigate its scale with deep recesses, roof overhangs and protruding decks and changes in cladding.  This makes smaller building blocks similar in scale to the surrounding older houses. The modulation of the facades of the building (different for those that face onto the park and the driveway) provide a visually interesting building, with a great deal of glass. These characteristics allow a reciprocal relationship between the park and the interior spaces of the houses to be visible, and this in turn activates the edges of the park. 

45 D

"Forty Five Degree" Infill

Completion November 2015

Contractor: PLS Consulting 

The ‘45 degree house’ featured in the inaugural Grand Design NZ as episode 5. The site was a challenging left-over 45-degree piece of land with stunning post-card views over Wellington, and offered no simple design solution or build platform to work from. But proximity to the CBD caught the client’s attention as a possible prototype to overcome urban sprawl.  Cautioned against large earthworks or a footprint that extended too far from the roadway, the solution was to take flat-house typology, and tip it on edge. A gravity-defying structural system of rock anchored vertical concrete and prefabricated steel frame tensioned by cables abseils down the cliff, creating the virtual backpack that the house inhabits.  A limited colour palette and simple detailing adorns the unique house interior of angular open floors over four levels, and opportunities such as permeable hanging nets as barriers, and a glass-faced lift running up and down against spine from which it hangs, further exploit the tenuous hanging nature.


At the conclusion of our Grand Design episode, Chris Moller called our project a protoype.  However hill-sites cannot be developed inside Wellington’s tight planning rules, dreamt up by planners for flat cities.  Rules protecting light and amenity between neighbours don’t account for the vertical distance between hill sites, already supplying sunlight and privacy.  When the architect breaks the rules, the Council expects us to talk to neighbours, but no neighbour signs consent forms… would you?  So the developers go straight to the Council with expensive reports to prove no one is affected.  The resulting resource consent process inside Council contributes no added value, proven ultimately by our unchanged designs - but still costing clients valuable time and money.  Pōneke believe that our Councils need to interpret the RMA differently if we are going to solve the supply of land available for development close to Wellington city.


Mandalay Multiunit
completion: September 2015

contractor: Captain Construction

The brief was for a 5-dwelling multi-unit development on a previously abandoned 722m2 site in Wellington’s suburb of Khandallah. Restrictive outer residential zoning and substantial incomplete earthworks left a compromised and lowered site overlooked by multi-units three sides; the building platform sat beneath the road with un-retained vertical cuts to the north - “a hole in the ground” as our client described it. We deliberately kept the density lower than adjoining developments in both number of units and building scale, all within two forms. The first three units are located along the street boundary, while the last two units make an infill-dwelling to the rear. This creates an inward-looking project that screens itself from dense neighbouring surrounds, while internally varied floor heights restrict overlooking within the site; perfect for the intended demographic of small family units with non-traditional structure.

The proposed building forms have simple pitches which run along the contours within the site, forming three sides of a defined internal space with a driveway to the last side. Shared open spaces can also be viewed from dwellings providing benefits of informal surveillance. Underground parking means cars do not dominate, and is conveniently accessed internally to the dwellings. The disadvantaged front units (overlooked from neighbouring row housing and street-level visibility) was avoided by provision of private internal courtyards at ground level in the middle of their plans. This allowed private full-height glazing oriented inwards. The remaining two rear units are situated with a lowered form that turns itself deliberately away from neighbours overlooking them. These two simple staggered building forms have a simple colour palette which emphasises visual hierarchy of public and private parts of each unit, and helps to create an integrated cohesive whole.

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