A former port building overlooking Lyttelton Harbour has been rebuilt and transformed into an industrial-style home with a ski-making workshop and a skate ramp in the basement.
A 100-year-old brick building once stood here, overlooking Lyttelton Harbour, but, like many of the older buildings that lined the small town’s streets, it did not stand up to the catastrophic events of Canterbury’s 2011 earthquakes.
Kris and Alex Herbert bought the building in 2009, running their custom ski company Kingswood Skis out of the workshop in the basement. They had renovated the upstairs space, which was originally a port building and had been used more recently as rugby clubrooms, and lived in it for just a year when it all came crashing down. Despite the challenges of this exhaustive setback, the couple decided to rebuild, says Kris Herbert.
“People thought we were crazy but we had a big dream and didn’t really get to live it out. It was not a smart economic move, which is why a lot of buildings in Lyttelton are still in ruins. Someone had to do it for the love. I’m proud that it’s not a hole in the ground and it’s going to be here for another 100 years. We designed it to be anything. It can become a big hall or whatever this town needs it to be in the future.”
Incredibly, the basement was not damaged by the ’quakes and, after some back-and-forth with the Earthquake Commission, the Herberts were able to retain some of the original structure of the upstairs building, including the large trusses, for the rebuild. They met with architect Max Capocaccia and sat with him on the remaining wooden floors of the old building, which were still intact, to discuss their plans and dreams.
“The owner of the building in front started rebuilding very quickly,” explains Capocaccia, “and the new building was a lot lower than the old one had been, so now there was this stunning view of the harbour. That became the defining feature of the build: we would have these large windows and, of course, the trusses, which the homeowners had salvaged and were very passionate about.”
The basement and the trusses were reinforced with steel beams to meet with earthquake standards. Capocaccia designed the new large windows in asymmetrical panels, reminiscent of a Japanese screen.
With weather whipping up from Antarctica, Lyttelton Harbour suffers from some of the coldest winds in New Zealand. Add to this a very exposed site, made more exposed by the demolition of many of the surrounding buildings, and you could have been looking at a cold, open-plan house. Instead Kingswood House is kept warm through the use of double glazing and a high-end structural insulated panel system.
“The new design keeps to the same proportions as the original building, as a homage to the past. To me, even though the top was demolished, some parts remain of the old building and being able to recapture that and pay tribute to it in a new way was very satisfying,” states Capocaccia. “The homeowners and I were on a very similar page in terms of taste and, where I stopped with my architecture, the Herberts started with their good taste.”
Architect Max Capocaccia explains how he insulated this former industrial building.
What factors did you have to take into account?
The southern façade is obviously the weak point in terms of thermal performance, due to the large-scale windows, but, with the insulation, the reduction of thermal bridging and double glazing, it is very warm inside. Even in the winter, the homeowners have reported having to turn the wood burner down.
What type of insulation did you use?
We used the MagRoc Structural Insulated Panel System, which is airtight, with low thermal bridging and is free from organic material that can absorb moisture. It is prefabricated in a factory from fire-retardant polystyrene and delivered to site in wall, roof and floor sections, ready to be assembled.
Had you used this system previously?
The use of this system was a first in the Christchurch area, so we were all in the same boat in learning how to use it and the thermal performances have been exceeding the expectation.