Herbst Architects’ Castle Rock is a timber seasonal second home commanding spectacular views of its natural setting in Whangarei Heads, New Zealand. The concept behind the design was to create a summer retreat with a heightened experience of nature by allowing the architecture to fully immerse in its surroundings through the use of inside/outside spaces and view framing of land and sea. The outcome is a sexy home which is at one with nature whilst at the same time retaining a strong architectural form that does not shy away from making a statement.

How is this achieved? Materiality linked with a heightened sense of style and architectural ingenuity.


[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
Sketch [Source: Herbst Architects]
Sketch [Source: Herbst Architects]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
Sketch [Source: Herbst Architects]
Sketch [Source: Herbst Architects]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]


The building relies heavily on timber, softening the impact of its natural context and allowing it to somewhat blend in with it. The blocky massing of the home is broken down through manipulated transparency. A black stained, slatted rain screen cladding introduces what the architects defines as a “crenelated layering which peels open in part to allow views and privacy”. This porosity also serves as a passive ventilation system, allows for air to either flow through or be blocked out by louvers and pivoting partitions. In this way, the building becomes dynamic. It can open up or close off to its surroundings not just through views, but physically as well. A timber frame is used as the structural system, which is generally exposed and left to its natural finish.

From the outside, the building may appear austere and defensive. Inside, however, you get a completely different feeling. The home is a stunning timber clad box with carefully choreographed windows framing magnificent views like living paintings, making it feel very open. It is simple but elegant, extremely warm and relaxing.


[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]
[Photography: Patrick Reynolds]


The design is split into two primary components. This was intended by the architect in order to reduce the scale (and thus the impact) the home would have onsite. Furthermore, this approach accommodates the natural contour of the hills to co-exist with the architecture.

The top section showcases better views and is therefore allocated to the living quarters. It is articulated as a series of 4 spaces in a pinwheel arrangement; a kitchen, a lounge and 2 covered decks. The kitchen aspects towards both the north and south deck depending on the prevailing wind conditions by manipulating a series of doors and shutters.

The lower section – with equally nice views in our opinion – is planned out as the sleeping areas. It contains a master bedroom with en-suite, two bedrooms and a family bathroom.

The two are united by a retaining gabion wall made of rocks. This linear element acts as a central spine to the design, from which to access both parts of the home. A stair connects the top and lower level and penetrates the gabion wall, a covered outside walkway running along the gabion wall connects to the bedroom spaces.
 The stair continues on axis with a powerful rock formation at the base of the slope to make the connection to the beach below.

The design is one of many from Herbst Architects with the tagline summer house associated with it. The architects are interested in exploring this typology of a house, which is really a home away from home. It makes you wonder: if this summer retreat is so spectacular, imagine the residential home of the clients!


Upper Floor Plan [Source: Herbst Architects]
Upper Floor Plan [Source: Herbst Architects]
Lower Floor Plan [Source: Herbst Architects]
Lower Floor Plan [Source: Herbst Architects]
Floor Plan [Source: Herbst Architects]
Floor Plan [Source: Herbst Architects]