How New Zealand Architects Are Reinventing the Bach
By Simon Farrell-Green in association with
Once, a bach meant a fibrolite shack, probably built from demolition materials, a tiny water tank that collected rain water off the roof and tents on the lawn for extra visitors. All of this is very romantic of course, unless you’ve spent a lot of time in one. It’s not surprising, therefore, that beach houses are getting ever larger and more complicated – with the unfortunate result that coastal subdivisions are now looking increasingly like suburbia.
The following houses, by contrast, manage the seemingly impossible, showing that style at the beach means reducing the essence of a holiday to a few spare – but beautiful – details.
Screen time on Great Barrier Island
Among New Zealand architects, few have captured the charm of the bach so cleverly as South African-born Lance and Nicola Herbst. At the Timms bach on Great Barrier Island, the Herbsts reduced the design to rooms connected by covered decks, sheltered by sliding timber screens.
The living areas are snug for winter getaways – there is a fireplace for warmth, while in summer, the room opens up with sliding doors and louvres.
The design might be simple, but the detailing is exquisite with a layered use of different timbers.
Small but perfectly formed at Sandy Bay
At Waiheke Island’s Sandy Bay, Julian Guthrie paid homage to the bach by splitting the building in two under one roof – you have to go outside to get from the living room to the bedrooms.
Cedar board-and-batten cladding and a simple deck complete the look.
It’s still flasher than most traditional bach bathrooms, but Guthrie kept things simple here too. Instead of tiles, he lined the walls with Seratone panels which are easy to keep clean (because who wants to clean grout on holiday?), and lined the floor with timber decking. A repurposed claw foot bath – painted orange – is great for a long and relaxing soak.
Palytime on the Coromandel
With the Studio 19 Bach at Onemana on the Coromandel Peninsula, Strachan Group Architects used simple bunks made of plywood to house children and extra visitors – after all, when you’re at the beach the focus isn’t on bedrooms but getting outside and spending time together.
Built-in furniture is a nice touch – though it’s also practical and hard-wearing. The house is lined with plywood throughout: it’s a nod to traditional hard-wearing materials but it also reduces cost because it’s self-finishing.
The bach was built by students as part of their architecture studies at Unitec – much of the house was pre-fabricated in Auckland and then assembled on-site.
A breezeway in the middle of the house provides access to the outdoors as well as much-needed extra living space.