Exterior of a home in New Zealand designed by Julian Guthrie. Patrick Reynolds for The National
The aluminium louvres, which open to varying degrees, can also be locked and secured when the owners are not home.

Flexible functionality

This louvre-covered holiday home in New Zealand, designed by the architecture firm Godward Guthrie, has a modern and fresh feel that makes a feature of its harsh environment. New Zealand is a forgotten paradise. Or at least it is easy to imagine it that way. Photogenic shots of isolated, lush holiday spots on cliffs or submerged in forests can easily give an impression of a benign, gentle environment. Yet beneath this idyllic daydream the island nation, scattered with active volcanoes and hemmed in by rough seas, can be a harsh environment, one which its holiday architecture has needed to adapt.

Omaha Beach, about an hour north of Auckland, has constant blustery winds sweeping across austere desert-like dunes. Still, its long, white-sand beach and proximity to a large city have ensured that it remains a popular beach retreat. Huddled alongside the beach, this louvre-clad holiday home designed by the Auckland architecture firm Godward Guthrie, squares off to the wind, its design making a feature of its harsh environment.

Bracing itself against the wind, the house is sheathed in aluminium louvres. The louvres allow the house to be completely locked down and secured when the owners are away but then also allows for varying degrees of openness when they are there. Two rows of louvres line the front of the house and all of the fins are adjustable depending on the light, or need for privacy. The bottom row will also hoist up underneath the top row so that the entire ground floor living area can be thrown open. Each block of louvres works individually, so various patterns of habitation can be recorded in the pattern of the stripes.

This also highlights another challenge faced by the architect Julian Guthrie. Directly in front of the house is a public walkway along the dunes, and Omaha, having become a bit of an architectural tour, sees more passers-by rubbernecking at the houses than staring out at the beach. While the house may be an attraction for onlookers on the promenade, the way the louvres resemble slits of Venetian blinds is a clever pun hinting at an image of a noisy neighbour peering through the slats busily surveying the scene. The house watches the watchers.

Aluminium was chosen for its robustness, particularly against wind-driven sand that would scour exposed timber. The client also had a penchant for gadgets, and the metallic technology of the automated louvres aligned well with the clean and beachy character within the house. The wide pivot door in the entry is one of these gadgets. Operated at the touch of a button, it does have distinct advantages. The door never slams, for one thing, which in windy Omaha is surely a blessing. And you can get grandeur without the worrying about the heaviness. This door is hands-free - an aspect must make hauling groceries or deck chairs or children inside much easier as well as maintaining security.

This flexible functionality is found throughout the house. Walking along the glass corridor from the entry to the living room, Julian Guthrie explains how the floor level was raised by 1200mm to maximise views to the beach over the low-lying dunes in front of the house. This also gave ample space underneath to house the water tanks out of sight. The living pavilion is a rectangular space that buffers the space between the beach and the inner courtyard. Despite the house being large, the living area is a reasonably contained space: a cosy square for living; another cube for the kitchen at the other end; and then a space between the two for dining. If the weather is fine, this entire space spills out onto the large deck overlooking the beach. If the weather is less than ideal the owners can make use of the sheltered courtyard on the other side.

This house balances expertly between showing off the view and not showing too much of the occupants inside. Coupled with the resolutely modern look, the automation, and the palette of white and grey, this house has a particularly modern and fresh feel that contrasts well with its harsh environment. * Nicole Stock

Some of Darwish's last words

"They see their tomorrows slipping out of their reach. And though it seems to them that everything outside this reality is heaven, yet they do not want to go to that heaven. They stay, because they are afflicted with hope." - Mahmoud Darwish, to attendees of the Palestine Festival of Literature, 2008

His life in brief: Born in a village near Galilee, he lived in exile for most of his life and started writing poetry after high school. He was arrested several times by Israel for what were deemed to be inciteful poems. Most of his work focused on the love and yearning for his homeland, and he was regarded the Palestinian poet of resistance. Over the course of his life, he published more than 30 poetry collections and books of prose, with his work translated into more than 20 languages. Many of his poems were set to music by Arab composers, most significantly Marcel Khalife. Darwish died on August 9, 2008 after undergoing heart surgery in the United States. He was later buried in Ramallah where a shrine was erected in his honour.


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Started: 2023
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Investors: Self, family and friends

Temple numbers

Expected completion: 2022

Height: 24 meters

Ground floor banquet hall: 370 square metres to accommodate about 750 people

Ground floor multipurpose hall: 92 square metres for up to 200 people

First floor main Prayer Hall: 465 square metres to hold 1,500 people at a time

First floor terrace areas: 2,30 square metres  

Temple will be spread over 6,900 square metres

Structure includes two basements, ground and first floor 

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This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.