In a cramped, steep site on one of the busiest residential streets in Ponsonby, Auckland, there was magic to be found in the form of a dilapidated 110-year old 90sqm heritage villa.

Client objectives were to create a functional family home with privacy, garaging & pool.

Name of villa: ‘Tree Villa’
Built or Unbuilt: Built
Architect: Jonathan Smith
Architecture Firm: Matter
Client: confidential
Design Associate / Team: John Holley, Phil Howat
Executive Team: na
Civil engineer / Company: Ben Johns, Structural Design Solutions Mechanical engineer Company: na
Electrical engineer / Company: na
Location: Ponsonby, New Zealand
Site area: 400sqm
Built area: 310sqm Design date: sep 2014 Completion date: feb 2017
Photographs: Simon Devitt Climate: Sub Tropical Main
Material: timber
Style: modern &  classical –  mixed Use: personal continual

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We challenged the status quo and gave new life to this heritage building – connecting it to its site and community.

Garaging provision in the traditional sense was impossible – requiring the controversial decision to install a drive-in garage and car stacker in what was originally the front left bedroom. Carving out portions of the villa, adding masonry wall structures, and retaining facilitated the car stacker installation. Giving way to a garage door, the original villa façade has been maintained in a seamless manner by retaining the weatherboards and joinery, and integrating a hinged door for vehicle access.

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While maintaining the character and streetscape presence of this home, we created a multi-level sculptural extension to the North. Old brick retaining walls pepper potted throughout the neighborhood (and on site) were referenced. Brick walls, cranked at points, connect the new with the old tectonically and referentially. The cranks break up these large planes, falling in and away, around the spaces created. Along with a masonry vertical element the brick walls provide North-South structures for the second storey to bridge across, creating an illusion of weightlessness.

tree villa By matter - Sheet13An aged pōhutukawa tree on site provided inspiration; a cedar slat screen of differing widths, randomly interspersed over the shades beneath, references the layering effect of the pōhutukawa bark. A nomaintenance cladding system in dark shades of grey and glass louvered joinery has created an everchanging depth and shadowing effect over this area.

Post construction the villa looks untouched from the front, contributing to the strong aesthetic and heritage of Ponsonby homes.


The core of matter is architecture, this center has enabled us to participate in a wide spectrum of design work and solution providing throughout New Zealand and Australia.

We prioritize people, sustainability, and exceptional creative product. Our project outcomes represent the effective collaborative relationships we develop between clients, consultants, contractors, and council.

We are a multi award winning practice, our work recognised in the areas of architecture, urban planning, design, and strategic thinking. We love what we do and have a profound commitment to our clients. We pride ourselves on our ethical, honest, and transparent approach to all projects.

Matter is recognised for its work in architecture, urban planning, art, design and strategic thinking. We pride ourselves on our ethical, honest, and transparent approach to all projects. We love what we do and have a profound commitment to our clients and finding innovative design solutions. We achieve these solutions through a working methodology of collaboration and disruption.

Integrity of ideas along with process and effective communication ensure that any investment made throughout the project is done so in a well planned and mutually agreed manner, making certain that our clients and all affected parties realise the most value from our product.


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