LIMINAL HOUSE

LIMINAL
Adjective

  1. Relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
  2. Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

A third year project comprising a proposal to convert the disused former State House located at 139 Beach Road, Castor Bay, into an Auckland Council Artist in Residence property (2014).

The house was originally built in 1941 as the residential barracks for the women stationed at the Castor Bay Battery and Observation Post on Auckland’s North Shore, and served as part of Auckland’s Coastal Defence Network during WWII. The entire Battery complex was disguised as part of the surrounding residential area, and gave the illusion from the air and sea of cliff-top holiday homes and eating establishments.

Post war the site and buildings were re-zoned, with the barracks buildings moved and in the 1950's adapted into State Housing rentals. The house at 139 Beach Road is the last remaining building from this development, and has been empty since 2004 when the last state tenants moved out. The house is now owned by the Kennedy Park Trust.

Impressions of the interior of the house in its current condition

I was interested in and inspired by not only the history of the house, but by its current condition; how a sense of the building’s past is marked on the surfaces of the interior. Walking though the interior spaces, I had the impression that the house was in a liminal state, waiting for a new lease of life; to cross the threshold into its next re-invention.

In particular I was intrigued by the peeling and curling wallpaper I found in one of the bedrooms. For me, this was symbolic of the layers of the history of the building, peeling back and exposing what has gone before and providing a foundation for what is to come.

“A house contains evidence of the intimate relationship between space and time. While the space of the constructed building may shelter people or families over long periods of time, the evidence of more transitory individual lives is visible in traces in and on the building and its furniture. These ‘traces’ may take the form of damage, dirt, dust, decorations, scratches, repairs and so on.”

Gill Perry ‘Dream Houses: Installations and the Home'

Inspiration drawn from the history and current condition of the building

My design was not only influenced by the military past of the building and surrounding environs, but also by the history of the State Housing system in New Zealand, and the ideals for better quality housing set out by the New Zealand Government.

Furthermore, I was interested in the idea of creating new surfaces, spaces and atmospheres within my design which were supported by the historic fabric of the building. My design precedents looked at the idea of overlapping layers; where light or transparency would reveal or conceal what lies beneath, and included works by Joachim Bandau, Rea Siegel Ketros and English artist Catherine Bertola – whose site specific installations endeavours to uncover the forgotten and invisible histories of places and people.

North Elevation

Using a handmade 1:50 scale model to explore floor plan iterations

With my proposed design I aimed to retain as much of the original framework of the building as I could, while opening the space up to bring in light and echo the original intention of the building as a barracks.

I was also mindful of the State House history of the building, keeping in mind the original objectives of the State Housing scheme, where careful attention was paid to interior planning. Natural light and room function were equally considered, while bedrooms had modern amenities (such as built in wardrobes) and the notion of a separate toilet and bathroom was introduced.

Sectional view through bedroom and lounge/kitchen spaces

Wallpaper and textile precedents

Hand drawn graphics for wallpaper design (Tui image adapted from a work by NZ artist Greg Straight)

Utilising my own graphic of the house and taking inspiration from the badge of the New Zealand Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (members of which would have used the house in its function as a barracks), I created my own set of wallpapers for use within my re-design of the house.

Inspired by 1950’s wallpaper and textile design, along with the use of specific colours, these wallpapers would further serve to reference the themes of the history of the building, and themselves provide a further historical layer to the interior space.

“[Wallpaper] is a material through which homes are made, and are made visible, and perhaps more importantly, a material through which they are changed. In this sense, wallpaper becomes not just some measure of household taste, but a salient record of time’s passing that speaks not just of the history of a room or a building, but of the moments and lives of the people who lived there.”

Trevor Keeble ‘Wallpaper, Dust and ‘Muck of that Sort:’ Themes in the Work of Catherine Bertola

Wallpaper patterns generated from hand drawings. Blue and green hues were used as backgrounds to reference the current colour of the house, and its military history

Rendered sectional view showing bedroom, lounge and kitchen spaces

Rendered sectional elevation showing study and studio spaces

Rendered view of the lounge, with bespoke wallpaper and rug inspired by the carpet currently in the house

Rendered view of the kitchen. The blue colour of the back door and under the bench is inspired by the colour of the cabinets in the original kitchen

Rendered view of the study space, which incorporates my bespoke wallpaper design