A bold move for art

This curving and twisting home captures views across Dunedin and showcases the owner’s extraordinary art collection. Kim Dungey reports.

From the outside, this house on the cliff tops above St Clair beach is strong and sculptural, with an imposing facade that gives no hint of what lies inside.
But step into the dim light of the entry gallery and there are glimpses of what is to come: raw concrete, bold colour, a curved steel staircase.

Design + Garden Landscapes designed the garden.

Design + Garden Landscapes designed the garden.

The artworks in the entry gallery are by, from left, Dale Frank, Bill Culbert, Alicia Frankovich and Oscar Enberg.

The artworks in the entry gallery are by, from left, Dale Frank, Bill Culbert, Alicia Frankovich and Oscar Enberg.

The staircase was craned in in two pieces.

The staircase was craned in in two pieces.

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Design + Garden Landscapes designed the garden.

Design + Garden Landscapes designed the garden.

The artworks in the entry gallery are by, from left, Dale Frank, Bill Culbert, Alicia Frankovich and Oscar Enberg.

The artworks in the entry gallery are by, from left, Dale Frank, Bill Culbert, Alicia Frankovich and Oscar Enberg.

The staircase was craned in in two pieces.

The staircase was craned in in two pieces.

Design + Garden Landscapes designed the garden.

Design + Garden Landscapes designed the garden.

The artworks in the entry gallery are by, from left, Dale Frank, Bill Culbert, Alicia Frankovich and Oscar Enberg.

The artworks in the entry gallery are by, from left, Dale Frank, Bill Culbert, Alicia Frankovich and Oscar Enberg.

The staircase was craned in in two pieces.

The staircase was craned in in two pieces.

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Design + Garden Landscapes designed the garden.

Design + Garden Landscapes designed the garden.

The artworks in the entry gallery are by, from left, Dale Frank, Bill Culbert, Alicia Frankovich and Oscar Enberg.

The artworks in the entry gallery are by, from left, Dale Frank, Bill Culbert, Alicia Frankovich and Oscar Enberg.

The staircase was craned in in two pieces.

The staircase was craned in in two pieces.

The St Clair property is home to art collector Jan Warburton who says she wanted to create a sense of surprise and anticipation:

I liked the idea that you come into a house and it opens up to you.

Jan Warburton. Photo: Christine O'Connor

Jan Warburton. Photo: Christine O'Connor

In a move that was driven by her expanding art collection and the opposite of the downsizing trend popular among her peers, Ms Warburton shifted from a smaller house to the 400sq m, three-storey home in May last year.

The painting near the kitchen is by Australian indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle.

The painting near the kitchen is by Australian indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle.

The concept for it came from Saunders Arkitektur in Norway — she met founder Todd Saunders when he was in New Zealand judging an architecture competition — with initial input from Wanaka architect Sarah Ritchie. The design was then developed and completed by Dunedin-based Bell + Co Architecture.

The St Clair property is home to art collector Jan Warburton who says she wanted to create a sense of surprise and anticipation:

I liked the idea that you come into a house and it opens up to you.

Jan Warburton. Photo: Christine O'Connor

Jan Warburton. Photo: Christine O'Connor

In a move that was driven by her expanding art collection and the opposite of the downsizing trend popular among her peers, Ms Warburton shifted from a smaller house to the 400sq m, three-storey home in May last year.

The painting near the kitchen is by Australian indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle.

The painting near the kitchen is by Australian indigenous artist Minnie Pwerle.

The concept for it came from Saunders Arkitektur in Norway — she met founder Todd Saunders when he was in New Zealand judging an architecture competition — with initial input from Wanaka architect Sarah Ritchie. The design was then developed and completed by Dunedin-based Bell + Co Architecture.

Built of concrete and steel, the home has three cantilevered sections including a 7m-long wing that contains the main living area.

Downstairs there is a guest bedroom and bathroom, and a 12m-long indoor swimming pool.

Stepping off the stair at the first level provides views across the living, dining and kitchen areas to outdoor terraces, the city and harbour. This floor also includes an art store.

The staircase then leads to the top floor, which contains the main bedroom suite and a large studio space.

Roof terraces on the upper levels make the most of the northern aspect and the sweeping views across the city, harbour, peninsula and ocean.

Bell + Co architect Andrew Kissell says the complex, twisting forms required a significant level of design co-ordination, and the two and-a-half year build involved working closely with W. Hamilton Building Ltd, structural engineer Peter Stevenson, council staff, consultants and subcontractors.

Andrew Kissell. Photo: Peter Mcintosh

Andrew Kissell. Photo: Peter Mcintosh

To achieve the cantilevers, the house was constructed using braced structural steel frames.
These are supported off continuous three storey-high concrete ‘‘core’’ walls at the centre of the home. This central core houses a lift, and the staircase which was made by Zeal Steel and craned in in two pieces before the roof went on.
The exterior cladding is long-life sheet aluminium, coated both sides and suited to coastal environments.

Colours and finishes were chosen by the owner, with input from her adult daughters, and include some unexpected combinations. Orange and dark greys feature on the ground floor, with lavender resin floors and dark green walls on the level above, and pink flooring and acid green walls in the third-floor studio.

The living area features a restful colour scheme and Sriwhana Spong’s silk fabric, dyed in Fanta, on one wall.

The living area features a restful colour scheme and Sriwhana Spong’s silk fabric, dyed in Fanta, on one wall.

The light in the entry gallery is by Niki Hastings-McFaull, the bear is by Stephanie Cossens and the staircase was made by Zeal Steel.

The light in the entry gallery is by Niki Hastings-McFaull, the bear is by Stephanie Cossens and the staircase was made by Zeal Steel.

Vibrant colours continue on the terraces.

Vibrant colours continue on the terraces.

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The living area features a restful colour scheme and Sriwhana Spong’s silk fabric, dyed in Fanta, on one wall.

The living area features a restful colour scheme and Sriwhana Spong’s silk fabric, dyed in Fanta, on one wall.

The light in the entry gallery is by Niki Hastings-McFaull, the bear is by Stephanie Cossens and the staircase was made by Zeal Steel.

The light in the entry gallery is by Niki Hastings-McFaull, the bear is by Stephanie Cossens and the staircase was made by Zeal Steel.

Vibrant colours continue on the terraces.

Vibrant colours continue on the terraces.

The living area features a restful colour scheme and Sriwhana Spong’s silk fabric, dyed in Fanta, on one wall.

The living area features a restful colour scheme and Sriwhana Spong’s silk fabric, dyed in Fanta, on one wall.

Vibrant colours continue on the terraces.

Vibrant colours continue on the terraces.

The light in the entry gallery is by Niki Hastings-McFaull, the bear is by Stephanie Cossens and the staircase was made by Zeal Steel.

The light in the entry gallery is by Niki Hastings-McFaull, the bear is by Stephanie Cossens and the staircase was made by Zeal Steel.

Item 1 of 3

The living area features a restful colour scheme and Sriwhana Spong’s silk fabric, dyed in Fanta, on one wall.

The living area features a restful colour scheme and Sriwhana Spong’s silk fabric, dyed in Fanta, on one wall.

Vibrant colours continue on the terraces.

Vibrant colours continue on the terraces.

The light in the entry gallery is by Niki Hastings-McFaull, the bear is by Stephanie Cossens and the staircase was made by Zeal Steel.

The light in the entry gallery is by Niki Hastings-McFaull, the bear is by Stephanie Cossens and the staircase was made by Zeal Steel.

While some spaces are dark and moody, others are illuminated by circular lights recessed into the ceilings — the largest of these measures more than 2m across.
Lighting can be controlled from a phone and home automation is not the only thing making life more convenient. The hydraulic passenger lift is invaluable for moving artworks between floors.
A tapestry artist, Ms Warburton established a charitable trust to support contemporary art in New Zealand in May 2014.
Her own tastes lean towards ‘‘textural, almost 3D’’ art, she explains, pointing out a depression in the driveway — a Kate Newby work which takes the form of a puddle embedded with nails, buttons and coins.

Cat Auburn’s sculpture of a carousel lion and horse.

Cat Auburn’s sculpture of a carousel lion and horse.

A digital animation of a fish by Frances Hodgkins Fellow Sorawit Songsataya flickers from a holographic fan in the entry gallery and a projector plays video art on the wall as you climb the stairs. On the top terrace is another of Newby’s works, a clay brick installation, and Cat Auburn’s large sculpture of a carousel lion which has killed a carousel horse.

While some spaces are dark and moody, others are illuminated by circular lights recessed into the ceilings — the largest of these measures more than 2m across.
Lighting can be controlled from a phone and home automation is not the only thing making life more convenient. The hydraulic passenger lift is invaluable for moving artworks between floors.
A tapestry artist, Ms Warburton established a charitable trust to support contemporary art in New Zealand in May 2014.
Her own tastes lean towards ‘‘textural, almost 3D’’ art, she explains, pointing out a depression in the driveway — a Kate Newby work which takes the form of a puddle embedded with nails, buttons and coins.

Cat Auburn’s sculpture of a carousel lion and horse.

Cat Auburn’s sculpture of a carousel lion and horse.

A digital animation of a fish by Frances Hodgkins Fellow Sorawit Songsataya flickers from a holographic fan in the entry gallery and a projector plays video art on the wall as you climb the stairs. On the top terrace is another of Newby’s works, a clay brick installation, and Cat Auburn’s large sculpture of a carousel lion which has killed a carousel horse.

Artwork: Fiona Pardington

Artwork: Fiona Pardington

Even the expansion joints in the concrete drive presented a creative opportunity. The cuts are in the shape of a paw print, representing a dog she once owned.
Inside, rather than ‘‘bury’’ the concrete in plasterboard, they decided to leave it on show and in its raw state, allowing a patina to develop, Kissell says.

It’s not trying to be this beautiful pristine thing that you have to keep as is. It’s organic, robust, changes and adapts. And the intention is to rehang, and move, stuff around. The house is a house and the art fits to it, as opposed to it being a gallery environment.

Jan Warburton saw the mid-century chandelier at a vintage show in London; it now hangs in her bedroom.

Jan Warburton saw the mid-century chandelier at a vintage show in London; it now hangs in her bedroom.

Of course, the exposed concrete also optimises thermal mass.
The exterior walls are double thickness, providing high levels of insulation, and the interior floors are concrete, with embedded heating run off a heat pump. The insulated concrete core also serves as a heat store.
For Ms Warburton, the home is not only comfortable but a true reflection of her personality.
‘‘There are places to go all over the house and just relax,’’ she says.

I don’t want to leave ever.

Page design: Mathew Patchett