Grand Designs Sculptural Steel House Steps Outside The Square

The Grand Designs Steel House is defined by its unconventional, sculptural architecture.

There was a real sense of drama playing out in Episode 3 of Grand Designs New Zealand – in more ways than one.

Firstly, there was the visual drama of the spectacular building site on a ridgeline high above the Pakiri coast north of Auckland. Then there was the drama of the architecture.

Scottish-born Sydney-based advertising creative Scott Lawrie, who has a fine arts background, drew his architectural inspiration from a sculpture by Gemma Smith. Lawrie says he liked the way the form of the sculpture changed as he walked around it. “I thought, what if I could get a house that looked like this – a house that would change as you walked around.”

Fully glazed walls and sliding doors ensure the house embraces the landscape and the views.

Architect Paul Clarke was commissioned to design a small home that would double as a large-scale work of art. “I told Paul to make me nervous when he came back with the designs, and he did. But then he told me the roof and walls would all be metal and that’s when it became a piece of sculpture.”

Bold artwork and black walls enhance the visual drama of the interior.

Clarke’s design wrapped the roof and sides of the steel-framed house in stainless steel, while providing a dark-stained cedar front entry and a fully glazed wall and sliding doors at the rear to maximise the view.

The unconventional shape created the third drama – the challenge of a build where no angles were regular, the walls sloped and nothing was square. Because the house needed to be strong enough to withstand gale-force winds, almost 4 tonnes of steel was required for the framing.

A delay in shipping the stainless steel cladding from the States put the project back a month, but there was a bonus, with the original order replaced with copper-backed stainless steel at no extra cost. This is the first time this extra-high performance material has been used in the Southern Hemisphere.

The kitchen island, wrapped in blue steel, echoes the sculptural form of the house.

As with most ambitious builds there was also the challenge of maintaining the budget – in this case $700,000. With the owner not prepared to compromise on materials, furniture or artworks, costs escalated.

But the finished house is just as much a work of art on the inside as the outside. The timber-lined ceiling soars above the open-plan living area, creating a sense of space and openness. And the kitchen island, which is wrapped in blue steel, forms a dramatic centrepiece – its angular shape echoes the form of the house, much like a little sculpture within a big sculpture.

Provocative artworks, a black-painted bedroom or “man cave”, and a suspended, floating fireplace are other stand-out features of the interior.

The minimalist, contemporary look continues in the bathroom, which features black hexagonal tiles.

.With a $200,000 budget blowout, Lawrie says he was forced to take on more debt than he ever dreamed. “If anybody tells you what the entire cost of a built is they are lying,” he says. “You just don’t know. There are so many variable elements.

With a $200,000 budget blowout, Lawrie says he was forced to take on more debt than he ever dreamed. “If anybody tells you what the entire cost of a built is they are lying,” he says. “You just don’t know. There are so many variable elements.

“But this is the happiest I have ever been in my whole life. I am so glad I did this and I am so glad stuck to my guns. If I had compromised on the design, materials, furniture and lighting, it would have been half the house it is today.”

Sloping walls and irregular angles made for a challenging build.