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Ohakuri Lodge (2005-)

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Development Proposal

Ohakuri Lodge is situated about twnty miles South East of Rotorua in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty. It is a hydro-lake, formed by the damming of the Waikato River in the 1950s. It lies in the centre of a geothermally active zone and there are numerous hot pools and spas within a short drive. It has been owned by the author since 1992, and is a work-in-progress. The property is an isolated, peaceful, 40 acre retreat. The nearest neighbours are half a mile away. The vistas of the lake are, in places, stunning


Looking Down the Inlet


Property Map

The property is horse-shoe in shape, and encloses a private inlet. At night there are no lights to be seen, save for the brilliant stars in their thousands. When I bought the property in 1992, it was with the intention of retiring there. Rotorua, a half-hour distant, has an international airport, and the town is one of New Zealand's premier tourism destinations. In 2004, Leonie and I planted 5000 redwood trees on the land - not to harvest, but as a contribution to future generations. We are also regenerating the native bush around the margins of the inlet, to attract native birdlife back (see contour model). We also built roads into the property to access our other building sites. Over time our plans have matured. Where originally we had intended to simply build a house, the idea grew that others might enjoy the peace of our property. We began to think about how we could live there and also make our living there by having a place for others to stay - perhaps in groups. The notion of a separate studio emerged - a place to work, but with accommodation for residential workshops and group retreats.


Ohakuri Lodge (Proposed)

Ohakuri Lodge was born as an idea (the original name we had for it was "Korimako retreat" after the native Bellbird). We envisioned the lodge in the form of an enclosed garden, bounded on one edge by the workshop/studio space, looking out over the lake, and on the other sides by accommodations and service buildings. The garden would provide us with year-round organic vegetables. The cost of being off-the-grid proved insurmountable so we reluctantly agreed to buying our power with a future intention to have our own system as soon as the network allowed us to sell-back.


Site Plan


Phase 1 of the project was to build the studio. We needed something that would be sustainable, using maximum amounts of passive solar space heating and water heating. Where possible, we would use composting toilets and recycle our grey water. We decided to use a recycled building (an army barracks - "Swords into plowshares"?) as our starting point, and chose part of an old barracks building from the Papakura Army camp. The building was long and thin (almost 60' x 18') offering excellent solar exposure on an  East-West axis, which would allow us to face the long side of the building out into the lake view.


studio plan.small

Plan of Stage 1 - The Studio

To enlarge click image

This is our first building - housing the workshop/seminar areas as well as cooking, dining and bathroom facilities. It is designed to be able to be used for sleeping Marae-style for larger groups over weekend workshops that will generate enough income for stge 2 development - the bedroom wing.


Combined plan showing the Bedroom Wing (right)

Accordingly, the old building was trucked onto the site and positioned in its final location. En route, it almost fell off the truck one one of the sharp bends leading to the property.


 The building was in a state of significant dilapidation, and I have to confess to having some anxiety about the work needed to bring it up to an acceptable standard.



Barracks Building

We  had the building transported to the site and the foundations laid close to the edge of a small knoll overlooking the inlet.

foundations.2  foundations.4


Alongside the foundations for the building we then built a whole other set of foundations for the deck that would run around the entire building, and would provide a good indoor-outdoor accedss from the studio on the lake overlook.

foundations.3  foundations5 

Deck Foundations

Then began the task of framing small extensions to the building, insulating the entire envelope, modifying all of the windows and fitting the large bifolds (3) that would give access to the deck.

 framing1  framing4


Framing and Cladding

Finally, the building envelope was secured, and we could begin the task of stopping and plastering the interior.


Stopping and Plastering

The interior comprises one large, simple, open space. The only (small) additions are two alcoves - one for the bed space (pictured below) and a similar one for the kitchen at the other end of the building. The main space (which includes the temporary sleeping area) measures 20' x 30'. The small framed beam shown in the picture is to take a trach for a set of internal bifolds that can be iused to break this space into two equal parts - each with its own full access to the deck.

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Finishing the Deck

The deck itself is large and runs the length of the building, designed to serve as an outdoor equivalent to its indoor counterpart. The roof overhangs seen here are designed specifically to eliminate summer sun penetration, but to allow maximum solar gain in Winter.


As work progressed the building began to acquire a more finished look.



View from a Nearby Hill


View from the Inlet

But it is from the interior that the impact can be experienced. The views down the lake inlet are ever-changing and dramatic.


View from the Deck

The views from the inside are equally wonderful. This view from the kitchen and dining space can at times be breathtaking.


View from the Dining Space

As time progressed, Leonie's family came to help. This picture is taken on one of our painting weekends


The Family Painting Team

Ohakuri Lodge continues to be a work in progress, continually interrupted by the need to earn a living and build our professional lives. Since the painting was finished much work has been done. The pergola along the South side, which will eventually link the studio to the sleeping accommodation is now finished. and inmcludes a sheltered woodshed and workshop. Fruit trees have been planted, and a solar water system is ready to be installed, along with the heat-exchanger in the open fire, that stands at one end of the studio space. As time allows we will continue towards completion. 






Entrance Porch




Woodshed and Toolshed

Since these images were taken we have sandede and sealed the internal floors - native matai. There remains a great deal to do. A seperate bedroom wing is next on the agenda , followed by an accommodation block for our guests and occasional woofers. It is a work in progress and a labour of love - a creative endeavour that we love.




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