“A paddock with grapevines on it” is Stuart Gardyne’s description of the site in Marlborough’s Omaka Valley, in which this refined yet unpretentious house is found. There are views of the mountains, and neat, regular rows of vines. A few olive trees dot the site, as if to emphasise the many subtle shades of green and grey. For an architect, the choices would have been almost limitless: the house could be placed anywhere on the site, and without close neighbours there are no immediate buildings or forms to respond to. Modernist glasshouse, or a sprawling estate? Both have been done before on New Zealand vineyards. Many now sit uncomfortably and feel out of place. What works on the coast doesn’t work on the farm.
When asked about the freedom that a site like this affords, Gardyne – who was approached by the owners of the land seven years ago – recounts a comment he once heard attributed to Mark Mack, a postmodern American architect: “Sometimes you can have too much freedom.” And in many ways the house that now stands is a subtle, careful musing on that idea, for architect and client alike. What should you really do, when you can do anything? And what’s most important, when the choices are limitless?
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